Don’t neglect ice fishing equipment

It's only the first few days of March but ice fishing is long-gone for this year.....

Even expensive ice fishing electronics can take abuse and should be cared for during the "off" season." Photo by author

Our ice fishing season ended about as quickly as it started. Now we are focused on open water angling opportunities. The excitement of spring weather and long casts.

Preventive maintenance is not one of our more favorite activities but pays dividends in the long run. Most will throw their hard water equipment in the corner of garage, barn or shed and call it good until next year. But paying a little attention to your shanty, clothing, rods, reels, electronics and augers will save you time and money next season.

Before storing your shanty until next winter, pick a nice day and make sure to clean it. Open it up and spray it down with a garden hose to remove fish slime, road salt and other crud that may have accumulated during the season. Fix ripped canvas, bent poles or those accidental burnt holes from heaters or lanterns. Repair parts can sometimes be found in stores but when all else fails contact the manufacturer’s websites or rely on the old standard, duct tape. It’s also the perfect time to lubricate pivot points on the aluminum poles with either a silicone spray or WD-40.

When in storage, mice are the worst enemy on any shanty. I place some type of deterrent, like dryer sheets, inside before folding it up for hibernation in my barn. I know of others who use moth balls or repellents like Fresh Cab and Var-Mint, which is made locally. Nothing is worse than opening your shanty for the first time just to have mouse nest debris flying all over the place and the walls riddled with new holes.

The clip-on lead weight we call “depth finders” have been replaced with sophisticated, portable electronics that not only show depth, but bottom content and even fish. Electronics are not cheap and have become a major ice fishing improvement but they need special care. Wash what you can with a warm, damp rag and dry thoroughly. Clean the screens with a vinegar solution and soft cloth or cotton swab to remove water spots. Make sure batteries are fully charged and keep your electronics in an area that won’t get too hot during the summer months. It’s always a good idea to pull them out a couple times throughout the year and plug in to make sure the battery stays up at full charge extending their life.

Now is the time to run your ice fishing clothes through the wash to remove all the fish slime you have rubbed on your pant legs and coat. Clothes made specifically for hard water angling have many special attributes you won’t want to compromise so follow the manufacturer’s directions to avoid damage.

Ice fishing has come a long way over the past few years. The old Schooley style fiberglass ice rods with plastic spool screwed to the handle have given way to short, graphite rods and spinning reels. So show them some love too. Wipe down your rods and most of all; store them so they remain straight. Make sure to remove all tension by loosening the line or you might create a permanent bend in the rod tip.

One of my favorite St. Croix ice rods now veers to the left because I failed to do so several years back. It doesn’t take long to give the reels a quick wipe then remove the spool and place a few drops of oil down the spindle.

If terminal tackle is still damp or wet make sure to open your tackle box and let everything dry out. Nothing is worse than preparing to enjoy the first seasonal outing to find most of the hooks on smaller ice fishing lures have rusted.

Don’t forget about your auger either. Whether yours is hand, electric or gas powered, they all need a little maintenance which can save you repairs. Gas should be drained from power augers then started to run dry. This helps to make sure gunk or spoiled fuel will not damage engine components. Hand augers and their razor sharp blades should be carefully wiped down with a light oil to prevent pitting and rust.

With just a little effort you will save time and money and be ready to roll when next winter’s popular ice fishing season makes its grand return.

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John Martino
Martino is a well-known outdoor writer throughout Indiana and has served as longtime outdoor columnist for the Kokomo Tribune newspaper. Martino has won numerous awards for both his writing and his service to youth, conservation and the community. He recently retired as Superintendent of Parks and Recreation for the City of Kokomo and now works as Ivy Tech Executive Director for Facilities for the Kokomo region.

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