Our Outdoors: Get Ready for Ice Fishing
By Nick Simonson

Nothing signals the fact that hunting season is over like a blizzard that drops 10 inches of snow and follows it up with 45 mph winds, which together turn the beige and brown countryside into a whitened winter wonderland. Thankfully, before the storm set in, my buddies and I were able to bag what will most likely be our last birds of the year to keep us stocked with a few meals and a bunch of feathers for fly tying into the coming year.
With time on my side on Sunday, I set to work with the help of a friend on my new portable ice shack and followed that up with a complete overhaul of my ice reels, spooling off last year's old monofilament before going through my tackle and shoring up some weak spots with a few new jigs and spoons. If like me, you're antsy for hardwater, here are some preparations that will help you ease into ice fishing and have you fighting fish and not the elements.
Toe the Line
As mentioned, perhaps the most tedious tradition before hitting the hardwater is the replacement of last season's fishing line, but it might be the most important. New lines will have less memory and less coiling, making your presentation much more natural. Furthermore, the new line will be free from wear and tear from being brought up over the edge of the ice hole and will generally be stronger and in better shape for that first fish. And with first ice known for producing lunkers, it's nice to know your connection to the underwater world is a strong one.
Start the Charge
With technology becoming so much a part of what we do in the outdoors, unless you're roughing it, odds are you've got something electric or electronic with you on the ice. Sonars and GPS units are obvious items with batteries to charge or replace before hitting the ice, but even augers run on battery power these days. From AAs to 12 volts, the power packs that propel your on-ice adventures need attention prior to punching your first hole. Don't forget to change out the small batteries and check to see that your bigger ones hold a charge. If not, it might be time to invest in a new power source.

Keep the Edge
There's nothing more disappointing than getting to your favorite spot for first ice fish and struggling to punch a hole. Whether you're silently sneaking in with a hand auger or using the mechanical advantage of a power unit, the ice-to-metal connection is of the utmost importance. Before heading out, make sure your blades are sharp and firmly attached to the auger shaft. If they need some fine-tuning, take them to an expert blade sharpener, or get a new set. After a few holes, your shoulders and arms will thank you and you'll be on fish that much faster. While you're at it, fire your auger up before heading out to make sure it runs and is ready for the season.

See the Light

If pre-dawn or evening fishing for crappies or walleyes is your favorite on-ice pursuit, check over your lighting of choice. LED light bars and headlaps can get dusty in storage and might need a change of batteries. You might need to replace the globe on your old Coleman lantern and stock up on one-pound propane canisters for lantern and heater fuel. Confirm you have hangers for elevating your light sources, or double check the status of Velcro used to secure them to your ice house.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If your hunting season has been cut short by recent weather, or you just find yourself with a free hour to review your gear, you'll be better off going onto the ice prepared knowing that everything's in working order and that luck seems to follow the prepared angler…in our outdoors.