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In a recent conversation with some ice anglers, I learned that ice has arrived in the northern parts of the Ice Belt. If these weather patterns continue, we’re going to be ice-fishing earlier than usual. That’s great: It means that the time between the end of open water fishing and the start of ice-fishing will be brief. There are a few things we need to do to make sure we’re ready to go ice-fishing as soon as the ice is safe.  

You need to get your ice-fishing stuff ready to go fishing. Make sure the batteries in your depth-finder are charged and ready to go. Do that now: If you don’t, if you’re like me, you’ll forget, and when it’s time to go fishing, you could end up with a depth-finder that won’t work, and that’s a bad thing. Depth-finders will help you put more fish on the ice. Some very accomplished ice-anglers won’t go fishing without a depth-finder. Make sure your depth-finder batteries are charged. And if you haven’t already learned how important a depth-finder is to ice-fishing success, stop by a fishing tackle retailer and check out the Vexilar depth-finders. They offer something for every ice angler, regardless of skill level. They really will enable you to put more fish on the ice.

Many ice anglers have learned that hard-sided ice shelters are outstanding for camping in addition to ice-fishing. We’ve been using CORE ICE shelters for ice-fishing, but also for camping and as a hunting headquarters. The CORE shelters are lightweight but very durable. Now is the time to clean your ice-fishing shelter and make sure that it’s in shape for ice-fishing.

Spool fresh line onto your reel. You don’t need to replace all the line. Just remove maybe 20 or 30 yards of the old line and tie new line to the remaining line. When you’re ice-fishing you’re only using maybe 40 or 50 feet of line in most situations. You want that line to be fresh. There are a couple of options for ice-fishing lines. P-Line’s Floroice is a very good option. It’s almost invisible, it’s very strong, and it’s also very manageable, even in cold weather.

Some anglers like to use a super line like XTCB8 as their main line with a fluorocarbon leader. The super line provides the ultimate in hooksets and sensitivity, and the fluorocarbon leader provides an invisible connection to the lure. Whichever type of line you decide on, start the ice-fishing season off with fresh line!

And, then when it’s time to actually go fishing, make sure the ice is safe. We’re all looking forward to getting out there, and that first ice bite can be really good, but the water under the ice is cold: You don’t want to go through. Remember that ice thickness can vary, especially early in the season. The ice close to shore might be plenty thick, but as you walk out farther, it can get thinner. Pop plenty of holes as you go out to make sure you’re still on safe ice. If you stay on safe ice, and if your gear is ready, you’ll enjoy your first ice-fishing trip of the season even more.

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