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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…]


Farm pond ice trip yields bass, bluegills By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

BOW VALLEY, Neb. | I could see the gate was open to the pasture that held the little farm pond that Gary Howey and I planned to fish. His pickup was parked near the top of the hill that overlooked the little gem, which we knew was filled with fish.

My Jeep plowed through the snow at the gate and climbed through it to higher ground where I parked alongside Gary’s rig.

My companion already had all of his gear, which is usually substantial, already on the ice and he was busy drilling holes. With bibs and parka on and zipped, I grabbed my bucket and began waddling down to the pond.

“There’s all kinds of fish down here,” Gary, of Hartington, Nebraska, yelled. His sonar was lit up like a Christmas tree.

He jerked back on the rod. Swing and a miss.

I baited up and sent my tear drop down, a waxie hanging off the hook.

Then Gary connected.

“Big fish,” he exclaimed.

His rod tip was bent down to the waterline and he was desperately trying to pull his transducer out of the hole. Just as he got it free, his line went slack.

Moments later, I set the hook into something just as substantial. I didn’t have to clear my hole because Gary hadn’t brought the Vexilar that I usually use when we fish together. Nice guy. [Read more…]


Ice Fishing Yesterday and Today By Gary Howey

Yes, I have been accused of being a bit crazy, which I am, “Crazy” about ice fishing.

I have iced fish ever since I was a youngster growing up in the Northeastern South Dakota near Watertown.

Back then, we would load our gear on our Flexible Flyer snow sled and follow the Sioux River out to Lake Pelican. We thought our gear was the pretty uptown! It consisted of a spud bar, broom handle rods, heavy line, a few bobbers, small hooks and a few minnows.

Our depth finder or locator was an old spark plug we tied to a piece of line.

To get a hole cut in the ice, we would us a spud bar we borrowed from our neighbor. For those of you who are not sure what a spud bar is, it is a long heavy steel rod with one end ground down to a chisel like point.

We’d use the bar to chip away at the ice to make our hole. The hole started out large at the top, as we knew we were going to be landing some monsters, so our hole had to be big. As we chipped away, with the bar getting heavier as we tired our hole would narrow.

One, possibly two holes were all my brother and I could chop because by that time we had them cut, we were exhausted.

The finish product looked like a funnel, with a wide opening at the top, with the hole at the bottom, just big enough to pull through a small perch or pike. I don’t know what we’d done if we’d caught a big fish.

Our rods were made from Mom’s broken broom handles with a couple of nails pounded into them where we wrap our line around.

Fishing line back then was either a heavy black Dacron or heavier primitive monofilament. The heavy Dacron would freeze stiff once it got wet and the mono would kink where it wrapped around the nails and wouldn’t straighten out no matter what you did.

The bobbers we used were big to say the least, way to large for the fish we were after as they would have died of exhaustion from trying to pull the bobber down and too large to be pilled very far down because of our funnel shaped holes.

Hooks were also too large, as we really didn’t have a choice of hook size. They were what we could borrow from my grandfather and neighbor. As far as we knew, we thought, one size hook fits all.

Since we were told or read that the fish always moved deep in the winter, we used our super duper depth locate, an old spark plug tied to some line, giving us some idea as to the depth we were fishing.

Then we would attach a bobber so the minnow suspended just off the bottom and set there all day waiting for a bite.

We may not have caught much and it is surprising that my brother A.J. and I kept ice fishing after such a dismal start.

Today, things are a lot different. Ice fishermen are much more comfortable, with our equipment being far more advanced!

The special clothing we wear, the special ice fishing bibs coveralls and parkas, polyester base layers, those that pull moisture away from our skin, our sweatshirts, hand warmers light weight heated boots and ice walkers make it much more comfortable, allowing us to spend more time on the ice during cold temperatures. [Read more…]