Riege: The Ice Season is Coming

Published 7:04 pm Wednesday, November 30, 2011


With Christmas just around the corner and the passing of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and the upcoming St. Paul Ice Show this weekend, we know that there are a lot of cool gift ideas for beginning ice fishing.

Most of you probably were introduced to ice fishing with some pretty basic winter equipment. The first time you ventured on to the ice did you had five buckle overshoes, a plastic bucket, a too large snowmobile suit, and a hand auger? Basic is great, but the winters are just as cold and now you might be a little older and you will need some new technology to help you enjoy ice fishing.

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Getting started in ice fishing is relatively simple and inexpensive. Many “ice” related companies produce products for the beginning angler. These products have been tested by professional anglers, like myself, to hold up under harsh conditions and to increase mobility on the ice.

The warmest innovation that has helped the ice angler stay on the ice longer, which enables them to catch more fish, is the portable ice shanty. A good, lightweight, portable ice shanty can provide a lot of added comfort. A propane lantern is enough to warm the interior. These structures come with names such as the Clam, and the Fish Trap. The important thing is that they allow you to take others out on the ice and yet be mobile. One thing that many modern ice fisherman want to do is to move from location to location. Sure, the carpeted ice shack with the bunk beds is nice, but not as portable as the modern ice angler needs.

Clam Outdoors has a starter kit that consists of a twin hub pop-up shelter (Twin Hub I), a hand auger for drilling holes, and a toboggan for ease of transportation on the ice. Clam Outdoors also has a Dave Genz starter ice combo rod and reel. This is perfect for a young or inexperienced angler. Clam Outdoors has also introduced an ice fishing combo pack that has everything a young ice angler needs. The Ice Fishing Combo Pack has a solid fiberglass ice busting rod, an IceArmor jig box, 6 ice fishing jigs, a clip-on weighted depth finder and a handy hook removal tool. Clam Outdoors even has a Lady Ice Buster rod that is a cool color of pink. For more ice fishing gear check them out on the web at www.clamoutdoors.com.

If the young angler wants to start on a smaller scale and go without a fishing shelter, don’t hesitate to introduce them to the white bucket. Many of us started using the white five gallon bucket to carry our gear out on the ice and it became our chair when it was turned upside down. StrikeMaster company, located at www.strikemaster.com, has a Glide-Lite sled with a five gallon bucket and vertical rod holders, and room to store your electronic flasher. Team this up with a Mora hand auger and you will have a winning combination for the beginning angler.

When it comes to hard water angling, panfish top the list. If you were to take a survey on the ice, you would find as many as 80 percent of the fishermen are in pursuit of panfish. Don’t get me wrong, some attention is given to walleye and pike, but they seem to be secondary on many fishermen’s agendas. Unlike pike or walleye, which can turn off for days, panfish are predictable. The average fisherman is out to have fun, many times making it a family affair.

Northland Fishing Tackle has some great fishing kits that contain the correct sizes and colors of jigs. Look specifically for jigs like the Mud Bug and Gill Getter or the Perch Pounder Kit and the Crappie Crusher Kit at www.northlandtackle.com.

Vexilar flasher units like the basic FL8 and the Fish Scout FS1000 underwater camera are nice to teach the beginning angler what to look for when ice fishing. They also help entertain and replace the video games. Believe me it worked with my kids. Again check out all the electronics at www.vexilar.com.

Don’t forget to also include a pair of ice cleats for your boots and an ice chisel to sound the ice as you walk out on it. The DNR website will give you a list of productive panfish lakes and it will also issue the ice thickness. Words of caution from the DNR, “snow is a bonus for snowmobiles.” But it also poses risks for those who cross lakes and other bodies of water. Snow is an insulator and slows the ice-making process. In many areas, there is deep heavy snow on fairly thin ice. Remember No Ice is Safe Ice.