Here we are in December already! Christmas is fast approaching and it’s time to think about the perfect present for your outdoors person. In the rush and chaos of the season, however, stop and remember why we celebrate Christmas. We remember the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
I’m planning to use the next couple of columns to suggest possible gifts the outdoors types in your family might want or be able to use. I’ll be talking more about hunting and shooting stuff in a future column, but you still have time to attend the SCTP-YESS sponsored gun show happening at Raven Hall, on the state fairgrounds in Palmer, as we speak. You might find just what you want on the table of one of the vendors at this show.
This week I want to discuss ice fishing. Several of the suggestions will carry over into open water fishing as well. First and foremost, your safety while on the ice is paramount. Examples of some stocking-stuffer type gifts include a set of ice safety picks. These things are designed to help you pull yourself out of the water and back up on the ice in the event you break through. A good set of ice creepers for your boots will significantly help you maintain your footing while walking on the ice.
Nothing’s colder than sitting on a bucket ice fishing while the wind is blowing. A good shelter can block the wind and, if it’s enclosed with a heater inside, can create a pleasant environment for fishing. Shelters range from under $100 to well over $500, depending on size, material, and other features. A propane heater designed to be used inside will run from $75 to almost $150, again depending on size and features.
Clothing is another safety item. Most of us use our insulated bibs, “Micky Mouse” boots and winter parkas to stay warm while ice fishing, but these everyday clothes will not float you in water. Parkas and bibs designed for ice fishing will float you in the event you go through the ice. They’re warm and flexible if you stay dry too.
Getting your gear into the water is critical. Hand-operated ice augers will work fine if the ice is only around a foot thick or less. Ice chisels will also open holes if the ice isn’t too thick and can also be used to reopen frozen-over, previously drilled holes. Thicker ice demands a power auger for fast drilling. There are several manufacturers of gasoline powered augers capable of drilling holes from 6 to 10-inches in diameter.
There are electric power augers designed to use rechargeable batteries or cordless electric drills as the power source. There are also propane fueled power augers available. I currently have an 8-inch gasoline powered auger, but I would love to own a 10-inch propane powered unit. Everything I have heard and read about the propane units say they are very easy starting and cut through ice very quickly. They are more expensive than the gas-powered equivalents and don’t work well in extremely cold temperatures, but I have no intention of ice fishing much below about 10 degrees Fahrenheit anyway!
Electronics can be very beneficial on the ice! A good sonar unit will help you monitor lake depths and find fish and an underwater camera will help you identify the species. Watching fish on “TV” is fun and entertaining as well. Having a good GPS unit will let you mark areas where you find fish and help you return to that exact spot on a future trip.
Ice fishing rods and reels are readily available, along with a myriad of “tip-up” fishing gadgets. Make sure the proper weight line, designed for ice fishing, is spooled on the reels. Lures and jigs are also abundantly available along with pre-tied terminal gear for bait fishing. Different size hooks are required depending on whether you’re fishing for a stocked salmon or a monster pike. Having a wide assortment of terminal gear along with swivels, weights, bobbers, and steel leader material is also the sign of a well-prepared ice angler.
Now your nimrod will need something to haul all this stuff out on the ice. Having a sled to tow behind your ATV or snowmobile is common. If you prefer walking, or the ice isn’t safe for vehicles, then a pull-along sled is needed. There are several models and sizes available.