Ice fishing can be an exhilarating, frustrating, frigid and even a downright dangerous outdoor pursuit.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to enjoy many outings on “hardwater” over the years.
I used to ice fish occasionally with hunting and fishing buddy John Holyoke, the BDN’s former longtime outdoors editor, but it has been several years since we ventured out.
This winter, I’m ready to fish. But I’m going to be starting pretty much from scratch in terms of gear.
In hand is a brand-new Jet Sled (yeah, the one I bought to pull my big buck out of the woods last fall — the one I didn’t shoot or even see). I’ll finally have to attach the pull rope, which I neglected to tie on, either out of laziness or because I knew that I likely wasn’t going to shoot a deer anyway.
I have a slightly warped packbasket, from which I removed the straps to stain it, and now must figure out how they go back on. My five Heritage tip-ups have been abandoned in the basket for years and will need new lines and some adjustments.
Two of them were relocated last year to our camp on Sebago Lake, so they’re not in the rotation. I’ll have to pick up a couple of new ones.
I have a metal skimmer with a tiny chisel on the end of the handle, and a set of cramp-ons that may or may not snap when placed over my boots, but that’s about the extent of it.
The big-ticket item on the equipment list is an auger. Having witnessed how finicky the gas-powered models can be, and being bereft of mechanical know-how, I’m hesitant to go that route. But I’m not willing at this point to lay out the $500-plus it would cost for a fancy StrikeMaster battery-powered model.
I saw one of those beauties in action at Davis Pond in Eddington a couple of weeks ago, and it was amazing. The thing hardly makes any noise, especially when compared with the roar of a two-cycle gas model. It cut through eight inches of early season ice in only a few seconds.
I would opt for a nice hand auger, but once you get past a foot of ice, it can be a real chore boring holes by hand.
Then I’ll pick up a nice chisel, a good bait bucket, new line and leader material and the proper hooks. I think I can salvage a couple of jigging-type lures out of my tackle box. A “Swedish Pimple” ought to suffice.
I figure 500 bucks and a dozen smelts ought to get me back out on the ice.
I’ll forego an ice shelter for now and hope for mild days with limited wind. I suppose my “Doghouse” hunting blind would do in a pinch.
So, I have some shopping and line-winding to do before striking out on my first expedition.
Once there’s enough ice at my chosen lakes or ponds, I’ll be walking and pulling my Jet Sled, so the season will be spent relatively close to shore at convenient access points.
Either way, I’m really looking forward to getting back on the ice.