Across North America and beyond, the ice fishing season is coming to a close—in fact, with this year’s abnormally warm weather, in a number of areas, it’s already over.
However, don’t store that winter equipment and ice tackle away just yet! Now is the time to clean, inspect, maintain, repair, take inventory and replenish so you’ll be prepared for a great start next winter.
Start with a good cleaning.
Sleds, ice shelters, coats, bibs, boots and mitts are the first items that come to mind. Sleds may be ripe with fish slime, remnants of bait, stuck-on candy wrappers and sticky beverage spills—all of which can be easily cleaned out with the spray of a garden hose or wiped down using a towel and bucket of warm, soapy water. Portable ice shelters—bases and canvas alike–should be rinsed down, fully opened and left to thoroughly dry in the spring sun before being folded and stored away for the summer.
Boots should be wiped clean and if necessary, re-treated with appropriate water proofed coatings; while coats, bibs and mitts should be washed and dried. Unzip rod and tip up cases and place them in a warm, sunny location where they can air dry, and rinse out minnow buckets and bait pucks. While you’re at it, remove the carry cases from your electronics, open and set them out to dry, too.
This applies to everything: Drills, shelters, electronics, clothing, tip-ups, reels, line, tackle boxes and accessories alike.
Take note of dull drill blades, torn shelter canvases and covers, weak batteries, tears in clothing that need mending, flags coming loose on tip-ups, grooved guides, loose reel seats, reels that require lubrication, rotten or nicked line or leaders that need replacing, tackle boxes that should be cleaned out and dried—even things like broken skimmers or rusted minnow nets with holes in the mesh that have long since served their practical, or perhaps, functional purposes. All deserve attention.
MAINTAIN AND REPAIR
You can try to remember all the items requiring care, or better yet, make a checklist so you don’t forget anything—then take this a step further by dealing with everything right now, while it’s still fresh in your mind.
You’ll feel better knowing your gear is being taken care of–and believe me, when you first discover accessible ice or get that red-hot lead from a friend about a prime, short-window first ice bite at the start of next winter, you’ll feel much better (and more confident!) knowing you’re fully prepared and only need to gather your gear in order to take immediate advantage of the situation.
Even if your equipment doesn’t appear damaged or in need of maintenance or repair, there are some things you should do anyway.
Emptying remaining fuel or adding stabilizing agents to treat gasoline remaining in the tanks of your snowmobile or power auger, honing and sharpening or replacing blades on both power and hand drills are absolute no-brainers that are relatively easy to deal with–as are tasks such as charging or replacing weak batteries on your electronics.
Things like sewing tears in shelters, re-gluing tip-up flags, re-lubing and re-spooling reels (especially when you have as many different models as I do!) may take significantly more time, but these are hours well spent because they’ll help ensure you’ll be off to a great start next season.
TAKE INVENTORY AND REPLENISH
Be sure to sort through all your accessories and tackle carefully, too.
I not only keep my lures organized by style, size and color, but hooks separated from swivels and split shot—again, each by style, size and color. I either make labels or tear sections from the manufacturer packaging and insert them in the respective compartments, so when I open my tackle trays to wipe them down and take inventory, I can easily identify any items needing replenishment.
With a quick glance, I know immediately if my #14 Gold HT Marmooska Dancer tungsten jig supply is down to one, my #6 orange painted circle hooks and 3/0 split shot are low, or that I’m out of #10 ball bearing barrel swivels–allowing me to jot down a shopping list and get these items re-stocked before closing everything up and storing my tackle away for the season.
Oh I know, with the ice melting away, many of us are switching our focus toward an exciting new open water season. After all, there are boats to get ready, summer tackle to dust off and prep; places to go. With all this happening, it’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement and hastily begin packing ice tackle away so you can move on to trolling or casting open water.
However, taking a little extra time to do things right is something you’ll find beneficial at the end of the calendar year, when, as the cycle continues and another exciting new winter season is about to begin, you find yourself fully prepared! Instead of uncovering a disorganized, smelly, dirty, dull, uncharged, torn, tangled, diminished mess, everything will be clean, sharpened, charged, organized, re-stocked and ready to serve you well throughout another winter season—and because it’s been properly cared for along the way, more likely to continue doing so for many winter seasons ahead.
And that makes all this extra care well worth the effort.