Last week, I discussed ice shelters and comfort, but the majority of ice anglers do not use shelters. They just stand or sit on buckets waiting for flags to go off or jigging rods to bend.
For these anglers, Clam Outdoors has an Ice Chair and gear storage system I know for a fact is very comfortable. I borrowed one last year, and it sure beat sitting on a stool or bucket.
Serious ice anglers have lot of “stuff” to carry onto the ice, and Clam Outdoors (www.clamoutdoors.com) can make it a lot easier with its all-in-one portable Ice Fishing Chair and gear-storage system. It weighs just 12 pounds, has a padded seat that folds into the frame, and the shoulder strap makes it easy to transport.
It has numerous storage compartments for up to six rod-and-reel combos, tackle boxes, bait holders, a built-in fish bag, two easy-access rod and reel scabbards, two long accessory compartments, an exterior mesh pouch, a four-point leg system for stability and a reflective safety strip on the front and back of the chair. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $85.
Clam Outdoors also has a new rod-and-reel combo that caught my eye — the Dave Genz (Mr. Bluegill) Ice Spooler Combo tight liner. The large arbor graphite reel reduces line coiling and twisting, and provides a very natural presentation of the bait. It also features a longer stem allowing for a more efficient grip and better bite detection. Because it’s light, it causes less fatigue for all-day-long anglers. The composite rod is fast-action, tipped with stainless steel black frame, aluminum-oxide guides and a graphite composite reel seat. Suggested retail price is $40.
To fill up that new Ice Spooler combo, get a 75-yard spool of Bass Pro Shops (www.basspro.com) Excel Ice Fluorocarbon fishing line. It’s abrasion-resistant, silicone finished, has a copolymer formula that ensures line smoothness, superior knot strength and is invisible to the fish. Other features include fast-sinking, low-stretch for better hook sets, and it’s very sensitive for light big fish bites. Offered in clear two-, three-, four- and six-pound test, suggested retail price is $4.
Finding fish is the hardest part of ice fishing, and MarCum Technologies (www.marcumtech.com) has made it a lot easier this year with its Showdown Troller 2.0, a palm-sized sonar device with full-sized performance. It has a 120-foot range, and 25 sensitivity and 10 infrared noise settings enabling it to give two-inch target separation. The Showdown has a five-inch compact, easy to read, vertical LCD screen with both daylight and backlit display options. It also has an internal ice mode to aid the LCD in extreme conditions.
The Showdown has a continuous run time of 20 hours on six “AA” batteries. Add to this an automatic, button-lock zoom and 20-degree transducer with a six-foot cable and you have the ideal ice angling “fish finder.” This unit will definitely put more fish on the ice, especially for run-and-fish anglers, and will definitely save anyone a lot of time. Suggested retail price is $200.
Staying warm is obviously a concern for hard water anglers and, Mr. Heater (www.mrheater.com) has several good choices for warming up. For those who sit on buckets and chairs or inside a fabric shelter, this compact BaseCamp Heater will make things cozy. It’s a compact unit that puts out 3,800 BTUs of heat at a 45-degree angle, deflecting the heat right at the angler. It has a one-button control that opens a valve and ignites the burner and operates on a one-pound disposable bottle of propane. For safety, there’s a trip switch and oxygen depletion sensor that reduces fire hazard and CO poisoning. This unit is also certified for indoor use. Suggested retail price is $80.
Ice fishermen who have larger self-built shelters should consider the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Heater which puts out 4,000-9,000 BTUs, has a low-oxygen and tip-over safety shut-off, can use a one-pound propane cylinder for three to six hours or a 20-pounder with an optional hose connector, which increases heating time range from 48-110 hours for overnight ice anglers. This unit also has a new easy-to-use piezoelectric spark igniter. Suggested retail price is $100.
Tip-ups have entered the world of electronics with the new Frabill Calibrator Line Counter (www.frabill.com). On top of the football-shaped tip-up is a removable display module that provides multiple statistical information on a digital LCD that reveals bait depth, time of the bite, time since bite and the amount of line taken by the biting fish. The display is backlit for low-light conditions and the tip-up is on a heavy-duty 17.5-inch base.
Other features include an ultra-glide spool shaft system pre-lubed with Sub-Zero winter lubricant for friction-free performance at any temperature, dual settings for light or heavy bites and a removable spool shaft for easy cleaning and lubricating. Suggested retail price is $40.
Those who like to fight fish on a rod might be interested in the Automatic Fisherman base unit that automatically sets the hook. Designed for use with rods from 24-32 inches long, it’s made from durable plastic and even has a 22-inch ruler on the side. When the fish bites and starts to swim away, the bobber on the line moves up to the fishing rod and gets tight. The steel trigger shaft will angle down, causing the fishing rod to slide off the post and set the hook. It lets the reel drag and the rod do the work until the fisherman gets there. Finish that hot coffee and go reel in the fish. Suggested retail price is $70 (www.automaticfisherman.com).
Periodic slush removal from cut holes is an important part of ice fishing success, and the recently introduced Flipper Dipper dipping system by Northland (www.northlandtackle.com) makes it a lot easier. It utilizes an innovative hinge system that opens when passing through slush. It features a Hi-Vis 24-inch ruler for measuring ice thickness and fish size. With a wood handle and high-impact strength plastic dipper that resists freezing, it floats. Offered for six- to eight-inch and eight- to 10-inch holes, it has suggested retail prices of $15 and $17.
There are always a lot of lures, and the best are those that catch the fisherman first. Here a few that caught me. JB Lures’ Tungsten Dub’L D Jig has a wedge design with a big eye, black super-sharp nickel hook, a diamond head and its weight gets it down quickly. It’s hand-painted with UV-reflective paint that will definitely catch the fish’s attention. It comes in 1/13- and 1/16-ounce models with No. 6, 8, 10 and 12 hooks and is offered in six colors. Suggested retail price is $2.50.
Lindy’s Foo Flyer has an erratic darting action that mimics a minnow and can bring fish in from a distance. It can be used with live bait or plastics and comes in 1/16-, eighth- and quarter-ounce and offered in seven colors. Suggested retail price is $2.50.
Those who often fish sandy or gravel bottoms and deep waters like Lake George should have a Rapala Snap Rap in their ice fishing tackle box. It’s fished with a snap retrieve which makes it dart quickly on each rod snap, then fall back to the bottom when let free. It’s a very durable lure, designed to catch all game fish species. It comes in 5/16-ounce (2 1⁄2 inches) and seven-eighths-ounce (3 1⁄8 inches) and is offered in eight colors. Suggested retail prices are $7 and $9.
There are two major dangers for ice anglers — falling on the ice and falling through the ice, and there are two precautions that should be taken. The risk of falling can be greatly lessened by wearing a pair of quality ice cleats. There are a number from which to choose. Just remember, ice is harder than bones.
Falling through cannot necessarily be prevented, but chances for survival are very much greater if you always wear two things — a pair of connected ice picks around your neck or in a very accessible pocket and a personal flotation device (PFD). The PFD will keep you floating until you can pull yourself to safety with the picks.