As the cold air mass moved into the valley this week, it was a chilling reminder that winter will soon be upon us. For anglers, this cold blast brought one thing to mind: ice fishing.
Ice fishing is a great way to get outdoors, social distance, absorb vitamin D and leave the pandemic worries behind. A few hours on the ice will bring a smile to your face and it is a family friendly activity.
To take the utmost advantage of this outdoor activity, checking your ice fishing gear now will lead to more recreation time when you are on the hardwater. Nothing ruins an ice fishing trip faster than equipment breakdowns.
The first piece of equipment to check is your hole cutting device. If you use a manual hole cutter like a chisel or augur, sharpness is your friend. Use a file or a grinder on your chisel and remove any burrs that remain from last winter. Put a thin coat of WD-40 on your freshly sharpened tool.
Hand augurs can be sharpened, and if you only used you hand augur a couple of times last winter, then a quick filing will freshen the blades. If you used the augur quite a bit, replacing the blades with a new set is well worth the investment. The ability to cut holes in the ice quickly means more time fishing and less time cutting ice.
Powered ice augurs have gained in popularity in recent years. Why not? Start an engine or push a button and holes are drilled in a matter of seconds. Powered ice augurs are expensive. A high-quality gas or propane-powered augur is priced from $500 to $900. If you are a serious ice angler, the expense is well worth the investment. Gasoline powered augurs mean having to deal with a gas can and if temperatures get below zero it can be hard to get a gasoline augur started.
Propane augurs don’t suffer from the cold temperatures. The propane atomizes in the cold temps and getting the engine started is less of an issue. If you use an ice shanty with a propane heater, the small propane bottles that supply the heater can also be used in the augur.
The low-cost alternative to gas or propane augurs is the cordless drill augur. These augurs can be attached to any half inch chuck cordless drill. Today’s lithium batteries will get you up to 50 holes on a single charge. These augurs cost under $300 and have replaceable blades. Most of us already have a cordless drill. Having used this combination last winter, I will say that it worked like a charm.
Replacing the blades on augur is a must before each ice fishing season.
Another battery-powered device to check is your fish finder. A fish finder is an invaluable tool if you like to jig baits for your quarry. Being able to detect fish under the hole you drilled will save time and lead to more productive angling time. Check battery terminals for corrosion. Check your battery to determine if the battery holds the charge. Make sure the transponder cable has no cuts or nicks. Water freezing inside your cable adversely affects performance.
Next week, we will check on fishing gear. Making sure that our rods and tip ups will perform as necessary is key to landing a nice mess of yellow perch or a trophy lake trout.
Tip of the Week
Ice safety is of the utmost importance. No fish is worth breaking through the ice and getting hypothermia or worse. Please keep the ice safety chart that accompanies this article as a handy guide to ice safety.
Steve Angers, a native to the Conway area, is the author of the book “Fly Fishing New Hampshire’s Secret Waters” and operates the North Country Angler.