Choose proper equipment when ice fishing
LINCOLN, Neb. – Ice fishing can be a great way to beat cabin fever and it can be one of the best times of the year to catch fish. However, to take advantage of ice fishing opportunities some gear is essential to make the experience comfortable and productive.
Never venture out onto the ice until it is certain that the ice is a safe thickness. Daryl Bauer, fisheries outreach program manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, has the following recommendations for essential ice-fishing equipment:
• Clothing – There are a number of pac boots available that have removable liners and are rated for temperatures well below zero. Spend as much money as you can afford on a good pair of boots because you will be standing on the ice.
There are a variety of hats that will keep your head and ears warm; consider a fur hat – nothing beats fur for warmth and style.
The key to staying warm is layering. Begin with a base layer of silk or synthetic underwear and add layers. Outer layers may include sweat shirts and jackets covered by heavy parkas, bibs or coveralls. Carry at least a couple pairs of gloves or mittens. Remove layers during periods of activity to avoid sweating and add layers back on during periods of inactivity.
• Safety – The best tool for checking ice thickness is an ice chisel or spud bar that may be used to strike the ice and evaluate ice conditions. Ice picks should be worn around your neck in case the worst happens and you need something to grip the ice and pull yourself out of the water.
Try ice creepers or ice cleats; they are great for keeping you on your feet. Wearing a life jacket is a good idea until you are sure the ice is safe. All ice anglers should have a long piece of rope in case of emergency.
• Ice Holes – A spud bar may be used to make holes in the ice, but ice augers make the job easier. Hand augers are relatively inexpensive and would be the best investment for beginning ice anglers. The most important thing about ice augers is to keep the blades sharp. Purchase an extra set of blades to ensure you have at least one set of sharp blades on every trip. An ice skimmer is essential for scooping ice chunks from holes.
• Rods and Reels, Hooks and Bait – Beginners may use their open-water fishing rods and reels. Specialized, shorter, ice fishing rods allow anglers to sit closer to their ice holes while they are fishing. There are a variety of ice-fishing rods on the market, or anglers can manufacture their own using broken open-water rods.
Think small and light for most ice-fishing tackle. Fish metabolism rates are slower during the winter so light lines with relatively small hooks, jigs or spoons tipped with wax worms or maggots are the best ice-fishing tools for most species of fish.
Borrow a child’s sled to haul your equipment onto the ice. Use heavier lines and larger baits for pike and other large predator fish.
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