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Pitfalls to Avoid While Ice Fishing

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"I have been ice fishing for decades dating back to a time where there were no portable huts or portable heaters.  We used depth bombs to find the bottom and talked about "How many arm lengths down" in setting bobbers and our ice sticks were sticks. We had to hand over hand the line in.  So many items in the gear we use today have changed. Therefore are we changing the way we fish to utilize these new advancements and enhancements?"

   Starting off with power augers.  An issue here is blades freezing up. A trick I'll use is when I'm done drilling holes, I'll drill a dry hole a few inches down into the ice to dry off the blades so ice does not build up on them. Then the next time I want to move and drill holes the blades will still cut.
   A big no-no is to slam the auger bit into the ice if it does not cut. This can dull blades and in some cases change the slant or cutting angle of the blades resulting in poor cutting of the ice. The better thing to do is bring the auger close to some heat and melt the ice clumps off.  Be careful not to try and bust the ice loose by hitting the blades with a scoop or some other steel tool.  You could cut yourself and maybe dull the blades. Better to heat up the ice and melt it away.

   Heaters as in portable propane heaters are great. Single head, double, and even triple heads are available to mount to a propane tank.
   Caution needs to be taken against melting your coat and or canvas portables, but they can be a great quick source of heat. There are some other styles that are less likely to melt anything.
Care should be taken while in transit that they do not flop around. Parts can get busted and when your finally ready for heat and they do not work, well it's time to call it a day.
   OK...So the portables are up and the heat is running. Banking dry snow will aide in keeping the heat in. Do not use slush to bank the house. You'll freeze it down to the ice making it a bear to remove once you're done.  Our holes have been bored and the slush has been removed.  It's time to set up our flasher.

   Most flashers have an arm or a float to center the ice ducer in the hole. It is real easy on a cold day to have your cord freeze to the side of the hole.  Extending it out prevents that.
Some ice ducers can get a film on the bottom of the puck creating a situation where you are forced to drive up the gain. A simple fix is to wet your hand and rub your palm on the bottom of the puck.
   Also you should try to lower the puck close to the bottom of the ice so as not to pick up interference from the ice. You will also allow your sonar to pick up fish on the outside edge of the sonar cone much easier.
Keeping your gain as low as possible is better then having it too strong as you'll pick up or read any particles or plankton in the water causing almost an inference that the I.R. button cannot remove.

   Now we are ready to fish. There are many types of fishing rods out there today. They come in many actions as well as they come in several lengths.
   Some of us fish with bobbers, some love to dead stick. Still yet many are learning or love to straight line and work fish vertically.
   An effective tactic for me is the latter in concert with my flasher.  I will choose rods that have a bit stiffer blank and a fast tip with a spring mounted to the tip for my strike indicator.

   Coffee or pop can make me shake and having a stiffer rod enables me to hold the rod still. I can see if that spring moves indicating a bite. Some rods bounce too much causing missed opportunities to set the hook and drive that
hook into the bone of that fish's mouth.
   The length of the rod can make a difference too when fishing inside a smaller portable.  A shorter rod play better in a portable whereas some longer rods for fishing
outside are more preferred by some anglers.  Rods with big eyes are better for fishing where there is a lack of heat. They do not ice up as much.

   Then there are the reels. There are many to choose from for sure. Most ice fishermen use spinning reels. A key ingredient here is a smooth drag.  With the super light test we use our chances of landing those larger fish increase with smooth drags.  If they bind up once in a battle that fish can easily snap the line.
   Strong bail springs are important too. You do not want the bail to go flip flip flip when you're trying to set the
hook.  Sure you always want to get the line riding through the roller, but even then with a weak bail spring the bail can pop open partially.
   Fishing outside on colder days can cause the bail to ice up.  The line has a harder time getting back into the roller. So check your bail often while fishing outside for ice.  Blow your guides out too at this time.

   Well that pretty much hits the basics. There are 2 other things and those are:
--Bring a bag for your garbage. Garbage tossed to the ice to be picked up later can blow away or freeze into the ice. Putting your garbage into a bag immediately just makes sense.
--And last, but not the least important is to take a kid or an elder out fishing. It will do you both a world of good!

   Dang....1 more thing.  Let's all try to release bigger fish.
We have gotten so deadly with our new gear that the lakes cannot sustain our onslaught for long periods.  I try to have a camera by, to be ready for a quick photo opportunity or video and back down the hole goes the fish.  Smaller fish taste better anyway, right?  Then you can catch that fish again and again while that fish gets even bigger.  It makes no sense in taking all of the breeders out.

Author: CrappieKeith Nelson.   Check out his website at for info of his Guide Service in Minnesota.  Also check out some of his pics in the CrappieFishingUSA ice fishing forum.

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