Gear Up for a Great Ice Fishing Season!

Old man winter sure is taking his time to settle in this year and has provided many bonus fishing opportunities throughout the Region. Many of you are looking forward in anticipation to the upcoming ice fishing season. This is a great opportunity for most, as everyone has an equal opportunity to hit the frozen water and is no longer stuck on shore without a boat. Many people in the North Bay area only fish large lakes like Nipissing through the ice because they might be intimidated by large open bodies of water and/or don’t have a boat suitable for these large lakes.

Northeastern Ontario is filled with opportunities through endless inland lakes and various access points on the larger water bodies.  There are numerous species to target including panfish, perch, crappie and bluegill; along with the predator species like walleye, northern pike, and trout. Don’t hesitate to try for a new species this winter as you may find that each species has its own intricacies. 

Ice fishing isn’t a sport to take lightly—harsh conditions and their consequences are a lot higher. Make sure you are always prepared and plan ahead—be proactive not reactive, and you won’t regret it. Prior to going on any adventure always let someone know where you are going or leave a note at home with your access point. Some key items to pack on your next trip could include extra base layers in a waterproof bag (socks, pants, long sleeve shirt, etc.), ice picks, water, food (granola bars), first aid kit, matches, compass, and a camera. No matter the extent of your adventure these items will help keep you safe, healthy and happy.

Are you prepared to head out and land the fish of a lifetime this winter? Have you even pulled your gear out from last season in anticipation? Many anglers are itching for the lakes to freeze and winter to set in. There is no better time than now to prepare for the upcoming season.

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Insuring all you rods and reels are in good working order will avoid any disappointment this upcoming year. A simple overview of the components is a great place to start—check the reel seat, blank and guides or eyelets for any damages. Reels are another critical piece of equipment and should be cleaned and serviced prior to facing the harsh elements. The cold makes it hard enough on your equipment and knowing your reel is working smoothly is an added confidence booster. Another step is using a damp cloth to wipe down your rods and reels to remove scales from bait, oil residue from soft plastics, and any other grit and grime that can accumulate.

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Looking back at how many times over the years you’ve blamed the loss of a fish on your line, preventative maintenance can avoid this mistake this year. Ice fishing conditions put fishing line through more stress than in the summer months as it is often freezing and thawing and being put through difficult situations. Annual spooling will prevent any excuses or line failure this upcoming season. If the line is losing its colour, starting to fray, or losing memory, these are good signs for replacement. Look into the many ice-specific lines available in braid, monofilament, and fluorocarbon options.

Baits and tackle are the business end of your gear and you want them to perform at their best. Starting out your season by reviewing all the tackle you have invested in over the years is always enjoyable. While sorting and organizing your tackle, keep an eye out for rusted or bent hooks, damaged split rings, or damaged baits. Replacing these components is a very simple and worthwhile task that will give you the confidence to land a fish at each bite.

Augers are arguably the most important part of you equipment because without a hole, how are you going to fish? One of the best places to start is by reviewing your blades and ensuring the edges are sharp. Many replacement blades are available, and local shops are usually able to sharpen your old used blades. Check all your connections for free moving bolts and wingnuts, and if you have a powered auger ensure you have it serviced prior to the start of the season.

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Last but not least, check your shelter and heat source for any damages. Is your shelter ripped; are there any broken/bent poles or missing pieces and, simply enough, does your heater work? Shelters can make or break a day on the lake and having an intact working shelter is often taken for granted. Portable propane heaters can be a saving grace as well. Tip: bring your propane inside the night before heading out, this will help keep the gas in its natural state and make lighting your heater much easier.

Take advantage of the great opportunities the BIG Northeastern Region has to offer this winter and don’t be afraid to try something new. This includes ice fishing for the first time, targeting a new species, travelling to a different lake, or that fancy new bait that caught your eye. Most importantly just head out there with good company and have fun in the great outdoors. There is something to be said for good clean natural fun…in the cold!

About Mathew Koprash

Mathew Koprash has been passionate about fishing for his whole life, and is dedicated to sharing his tips and techniques with others who share his passion.

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