I love to ice-fish! If I had 6 months of ice-fishing every year I would be happy. I heard one of the moons of Saturn is comprised entirely of ice and if I could figure out a way to get there and come up with an auger able to drill through all of that ice, I’ll bet I could catch some darned big fish!
I will not pretend to tell you how much ice-fishing we will get to do this winter. I will follow all my charts, graphs and forecasts, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/blogs/2012/11/weather-geek/ , but all we really can do is wait and see. Two winters ago was a great ice-fishing season and I spent as much time on the ice as I have in several years. Last year stunk. In the middle of a mild winter DO NOT walk up to me and comment on how nice the weather is; I will grumble, I will not be kind, I ain’t in a good mood during a mild winter. And, if you think about it, those stinkin’ mild winters are usually what proceed dry year’s like 2012. Maybe all you you “bluebirds” should be hoping for some snow and cold instead of a mild winter?
I have been fishing Nebraska waters for a few years and will always tell you that “normal” in Nebraska is just the average of the extremes. I would say “normally” I will get to hit the ice sometime around Christmas, usually a little before Christmas, and “normally” will be on the ice until late February. I will be on as soon as it is safe and will stay on as long as it is safe; the earliest I have been ice-fishing in Nebraska was Thanksgiving and the latest has been the third week in March (and the fishing on that late ice was H-O-T!).
With some cold weather we should be looking at some ice-fishing soon, so this would be a good time to pull out that ice-fishing gear and make sure it is ready to go. If you have a power auger, drop a new spark plug in that baby, check the air filter, fire her up and make sure she is ready to go (by the way, I love the sound of my Jiffy power auger, will start it up a couple of times during the summer just to hear that sweet sound!). If you have a 2-stroke power auger, now would be a good time to make sure you have the proper mixture of oil and gas in your refill container. Check the blades on your power auger and hand auger; if they need sharpened or replaced now is the time to do it.
How about the line on your ice-fishing reels? If you are like me, much of your ice-fishing is spent in pursuit of panfish and much of that with relatively light lines. Since those lines are not very strong to begin with they need to be replaced frequently; pick up some spools of line and get to work on that right now. Clean and lubricate those small reels while you are at it too.
Or, how about sharpening hooks? Again, with the light line and limber rods used for many panfish presentations through the ice, you want your hooks to be as sharp as possible. Fortunately, many of the jigs, tear-drops, and lures used for catching panfish through the ice have relatively small hooks that are relatively easy to sharpen. I check my hooks on my thumbnail–they should stick, not skip over your nail–and if they are not sharp they get sharpened before they are tied on. I really like these diamond hook sharpeners for sharpening small hooks, http://www.cabelas.com/product/Diamond-KnifeHook-Sharpener/702057.uts?Ntk=AllProducts&searchPath=%2Fcatalog%2Fsearch%2F%3FN%3D%26No%3D20%26Ntk%3DAllProducts%26Ntt%3Ddiamond%2Bhook%2Bsharpener%26Ntx%3Dmode%252Bmatchallpartial%26WTz_l%3DHeader%253BSearch-All%2BProducts%26WTz_st%3D%26WTz_stype%3DSP%26form_state%3DsearchForm%26recordsPerPage%3D20%26search%3Ddiamond%2Bhook%2Bsharpener%26searchTypeByFilter%3DAllProducts&Ntt=diamond+hook+sharpener&WTz_l=Header%3BSearch-All+Products .
Listen close, I will tell you a little secret, look around and make sure no one is reading this over your shoulder. . . . If you take the time to sharpen those hooks, they will penetrate your maggots or wax worms a lot easier and make those baits more lively and more attractive on the hook. In the ultra-clear water of some ice-fishing situations that little detail right there can mean a lot more fish hitting the top side of the ice.
Speaking of bait, you might want to put in an order for wax-worms, maggots or your favorite bait. I use wax-worms year-round and order mine here, http://www.vadosbait.com/ . If you like to use some frozen smelt for catching northern pike through the ice, you have probably cussed when you could not find some quality, big, frozen smelt in any of your local grocery stores. This would be a good time to fire up the ole internet and start looking for some; maybe throw in with a buddy or two and order a bunch.
Got creepers? If not, you should buy a pair. If you have ‘em already, then this would be a good time to pull them out and make sure all the straps are in good condition. Check the spikes to make sure none of them have been bent over or dulled.
Pull out your ice tackle box and look at it; does it need some organization? Need to replace some baits? Maybe you will discover you could use a few more of your favorite color of tear-drop or maybe you should swing by the tackle shop and buy a bunch of new baits you have been wanting to try.
Take inventory of all your tackle, clothing, and all the other gear you use for ice-fishing. You might need a new pair of gloves, or the pacs inside your boots need replaced. Maybe you need some new tungsten jigs or those little plastic bodies, whatever it is, do it now and you will not be sorry when it is time to hit the ice.
Which I hope is soon!