It's been warm so far this year, but now is the point you should start planning for one of my favorite times of the year – Ice Fishing Season. Our lakes will soon be frozen and folks will be bundled up and setting traps on the hard water. Whether you’ve never stepped foot on a frozen lake or you’re an old-school expert – here are 3 exciting reasons to get started this year. Get excited!
1) It doesn’t have to be expensive
Ice fishing can be done on the cheap! These are a few essentials you’ll need, but they are an investment that you’ll get years of enjoyment from.
5 Ice Traps ($50 for all 5 from a surplus store) – Most lakes allow 5 traps per person!
Bait Bucket ($5 at an outdoors store) – Pickup a cushioned seat for the top of your pail!
Manual Auger ($5 at an outdoors store) – Drill fast through that ice to the fish!
2) You don’t have to be an expert
Warning: There should be no fear or hesitation! Fly fishing requires accurate placement of expensive flies and carefully reading the water. The only rule of ice fishing is that you drop a shiner down a hole and wait patiently for a flag. Admittedly, that sounds awfully simple, but those are the basics. A little research helps though. It’s great to know the depth of the water you’re fishing. Use a “sounder”, a heavy sinker, and gauge the water’s depth. Early on in the season, fish for trout near the banks, in 5-8 feet of water. At the tail end of winter, venture deeper. Learn and adapt to the particular conditions. If traps at a deeper water level are working -adjust the rest. If a certain area of the lake is counter productive, adjust everything.
Check your traps occasionally. It’s important to make sure your bait is still on the hook and still alive. To keep your shiners alive longer, thread the hook in the center of the fish and right below the spine. If done properly, the bait should remain alive for the majority of the afternoon. Also, pay attention to the tension on your traps. If you’re noticing that your bait is consistently missing without a flag being set off – try loosening (unscrewing) the tension bolt. If it’s too tight, you may actually have a fish on! For tips on where and how to ice fish, check out the Maine’s IceShanty.com Forum. It’s full of great information and help.
3) It’s exciting
Have fun! Plan ahead and make it an event. Buy a few groceries, bring a game or simply a few friends. The more the merrier. If you’re lucky enough to have a shack or a pop-up shelter, you’ll be able to congregate out of the wind and cold.
Lunch – Bring a small stove and heat up soup or chili, etc. Warms the soul and the body!
Drinks – Pass time with a thermos of spiked cocoa or a 12 pack of craft beer.
Jigging – bring an ice fishing pole and work a jig. It gets you involved!
Games – Draw out circles, like a dartboard, in the snow and have a competition to see who can come closest to the bullseye with an empty can. Make your own fun!
Bring Layers – If you’re warm, you have more fun. If you’re having more fun, you will stay longer and catch more fish. It’s simple.
Check for FLAGS – Consistently check for a raised flag. Once one goes off, you very well could be chasing flags and hauling in fish all day. Be safe and enjoy the upcoming winter, folks!