The combination of the ice I saw forming around the edges of Saratoga Lake, several area ponds and the dusting of snow that covered my lawn last Sunday tells me it’s time to start thinking about “hard-water” fishing.
Don’t get too excited yet because there’s no safe ice, but you might want to see a few of the items that are being offered to make your ice fishing season a lot more comfortable and successful. Here are a few of them for you to consider.
When that wind blows, and it always does on the ice, it’s nice to have a place out of the wind to sit and wait for those flags and/or jig for panfish. This year, I’m impressed with the three Frabill Flip-Over shelters. All are insulated for warmth with 3M NorpacR2 Extreme Outdoor Fabric with Thinsulate Insulation FR (flame-resistant) construction. The Pro model has a fishable area 57 inches long and 40 inches wide with a four-way sliding, deluxe padded boat-type seat and front zippered door with MaxVent Air exchange. Set-up size is 123 inches long, 40 inches wide and 75 inches high, folds to 66x40x18 inches and weighs 113 pounds.
For “run, cut another hole and fish” ice anglers, the Commando is just what you want. A one-person shelter offering a fishable area of 50 inches long and 33 inches wide, it comes with the multiposition deluxe padded boat-type seat and a set-up size of 110 inches long, 33 inches wide and 66 inches high that folds to 59x33x18 inches. Total weight is 74 pounds.
The biggest of this Flip Up series, the Guardian, has maximum occupancy of three and comes with two deluxe padded boat-type seats offering a fishable area 56 inches long and 66 inches wide. When set up, it measures 96 inches long, 66 inches wide and 75 inches high and folds to 66x20x21. The Guardian has an extra-tough thermo-formed base, seven-eighths-inch heavy-duty aluminum frame with front and rear doors with heavy-duty zippers and eight, 2x2-inch safety reflectors.
This is definitely the way to ice fish comfortably. It doesn’t have to be a cold sport. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the Pro is $399; the Commando, $299; the Guardian, $699 (www.frabill.com).
You might want to consider the addition of a tow bar for pulling a Frabill shelter with a snowmobile or ATV. MSRP is $50.
Those not interested in a shelter might like a sled that will make getting “stuff” on and off the ice a lot easier. Their extra-tough, foamed sleds with an angled front to help them glide over the ice come in three sizes. The large has 18 cubic feet of carrying space, measures 66x40x12 inches and weighs 27 pounds; medium is 8.5 cubic feet, 58x32x8 inches and weighs 16 pounds; small is 6.5 cubic feet, measures 50x29x8 inches and weighs 11 pounds. MSRP is $90, $50 and $35, respectively.
Every ice angler needs an auger, and there are many choices, so let’s begin with the quickest and easiest way to punch holes in hard water.
Power augers seem to get better every year, and the newest version is the Jiffy Pro 40 propane-powered 49cc, four-stroke OHV engine. No gas means clean (low emissions) and no gas smell on your hands. The four-stroke is quiet and powerful, and has as an E-Z start that does not require priming or choking and has a mitten grip handle.
Other features include high-torque transmission, heavy-duty clutch and optimum gear ratio that transfers more engine energy for additional torque. No more fighting with your auger. The blade is a serrated ripper with power-point blades that will last two to three times longer and cuts 25 percent faster than other augers. The Pro 40 is available with 6-, 8-, 9- and 10-inch drill assemblies and weighs 33 to 36 pounds, depending on the size of the drive. MSRP is $519-$529 (www.jiffyonice.com).
Those who want to manually cut holes can try the Hand Ice Auger by Bass Pro Shop. It features a powder-coated finish to reduce ice buildup, has a two-piece telescoping handle that extends up to an additional six inches and a soft rubber power hump handle with three setting adjustments that are ergonomically designed for a very comfortable and sure grip. Easy to carry, it comes with either a six- or eight-inch blade and blade cover. I read several reviews, and they were four- and five-star ratings. One angler said he cut through 20 inches of ice in 30 seconds. Retail for either is $43 (www.basspro.com).
There’s one more auger I found very interesting, the NILS USA Cordless Drill auger. This unit can be used manually or with a cordless drill. The blade diameters are 4.5 and 6 inches. MSRP is $119-$149 (www.nilsmaster.com).
Whether using a power or hand auger, warm hands are a must, and the gloves I found work for me on ice and for waterfowl hunting. Glasier Gloves are constructed from G-Tek 2mm fleece-lined neoprene and are a waterproof, full-finger glove that gives you exceptional dexterity and feel.
They come in black and sizes small to extra large. MSRP is $30 (glacierglove.com).
Next week, our ice fishing discussion will include warm clothing, ice fishing gear and some of the old and new lures you’ll need to put some fish on the ice.