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Prepare now for ice fishing season By Larry MYHRE

I sit here writing this, the temperature outdoors is pushing 70 degrees. It is Nov. 5.

If you are an ice-a-holic, as I am, you too must be wondering, “Will our lakes and ponds ever freeze over this year?”

The answer, of course, is “Yes, they will.” And it may happen sooner than you think. Time just seems to rush by any more.

With this unseasonably warm weather on hand, it is a great time to begin getting your ice fishing gear in order. As much as we like ice fishing and the cold that comes with it, firing up your auger and inspecting your ice fishing shelter is better done when the outdoor temperature is 60 degrees, not 15.

Let’s check our auger first.

There are three areas that need immediate attention. The first is gasoline. It’s best to dump out last year’s supply and start with fresh. Add the right amount of oil to the gas if it is required. Old gas is one of the things that make augers start hard. The other is the spark plug. Pull it out and inspect it. Clean it a bit with steel wool or even a small file. Use a feeler gauge to set the correct gap. You may not need to replace your spark plug every year, but that also depends a lot on how hard you use it. A lot of guys carry a spare plug and a wrench with them out on the ice. Spark plugs on small engines can get fouled easily and a fresh plug can save a lot of starter rope pulling.

Next, inspect the cutters. If they are dull, replace them. If your ice chips resemble those found in a snow cone, it is time for new cutters.

Finally, start the auger a few times and let it idle. If it starts easily, it is ready for action. If not, take it to a small engine repair center.

Most of us fish out of a portable canvas shelter of one kind or another. Take it out on the lawn and set it up. Make sure mice have not nested in it and chewed holes in the canvas. If so, repair the holes or tears. You may need to clean it out and inspect the moving parts to make sure everything is operating correctly.

When your ice fishing shack is up to specs, take a look at your heater. Most run on propane. Start them up a time or two and let them run for a while. Make sure you have enough propane tanks on hand.

Most of us carry a Vexilar flasher depth finder. Charge the battery or replace if needed and make sure the unit runs correctly.

Rods and reels will need to be inspected and checked. Replace the line if it is mono. I repeat, replace the line. It’s that important. Old mono will retain the memory of the spool and come off the reel looking like a slinky. It is impossible to fish effectively with such line, especially with light lures. I like Berkely Micro Ice in four pound test for panfish and six pound for walleyes. Remember that you do not need to replace all the line on the reel. Peel off about 75 feet and cut. Attach the new line to the old with a barrel knot.

Check the line guides on your rods to make sure they are not broken or pulled loose. Check the reel seats for tightness or apply electrician’s tape to anchor your reel. Make sure the rod is still intact. I’ve found splintered tips on several ice fishing rods in the past. Better to find that now than out on the ice.

Sort through all of your ice fishing lures and clean them if needed or sharpen the hooks if needed. [Read more…]