Outdoors column: Ice fishing preparations

by Steve Carney
Contributing Columnist

Next on the outdoor agenda – ice fishing!

Early preparations will make the transition to hard water fishing more enjoyable and your fishing success will improve accordingly. Photo courtesy of Steve Carney

Early preparations will make the transition to hard water fishing more enjoyable and your fishing success will improve accordingly. Photo courtesy of Steve Carney

As we look forward to the colder temperatures of December this signals the beginning of the winter ice fishing season. This writer is already making preparations for the upcoming hard water season and I believe doing my homework early makes the start of the season more enjoyable and productive. Here is a checklist on the items needed and the reasons for starting your preparations early.

Portable shacks

I have been spending my waking hours recently putting together my portable ice shacks bolt by bolt, screw by screw and this is something I do not enjoy. I was never blessed with the wrench gene and it shows. I always try and get the portables put together in decent 40 to 50 degree temperatures now instead of struggling in December when you are dealing with single digits. Many of these portables take at least four hours to assemble.

If you are sitting with a portable in the garage… get on the stick.


I have made the transition the last few years to smaller, more efficient portable heaters that require very little maintenance. I prefer the smaller heaters that use a small, one pound cylinder. No more lugging around a 10 gallon propane tank and lots of annoying hose connections. Today’s smaller heaters can handle all the portable shacks out there and you can go a good three hours on one small propane cylinder. The idea is to cut your weight down when hauling your shack and this is the ticket for ease of transportation.

Rods and reels

I always put fresh line on my reels prior to the ice season and make sure the line is fresh and without memory. Six pound test on my panfish reels and eight pound on my walleye rigs.

Monofilament is still my choice. Make sure you put the line on a good three weeks before usage and allow the line to conform to your spool. This will help you avoid the “bird nest” syndrome when hitting the ice. Make sure that spool is flat on the floor and the line rising off the spool naturally when putting on new line. Don’t even think about the “pencil in the spool” technique… that is a disaster.

Portable travel covers

Many anglers skimp on the expense and go without a travel cover – bad idea. The travel cover keeps the snow and ice from building up inside your house and allows you to pull the house behind an ATV or snowmobile without mishaps. Lots of time your expensive gear will fly out of your shack when transporting. Having a travel cover keeps things buttoned down nicely.


It is very important you have your auger serviced every season to avoid getting stranded on the ice with no way to drill holes. Change the crankcase oil every season along with the plugs. Nobody likes a finicky auger. Make sure you run that auger prior to hitting the ice to make sure everything is working. Don’t forget to check the pull cord as this can be a problem area if the auger is older than three years.

Steve Carney is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.

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