Fall is a good time to get ready for ice fishing

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I have taken up my bow again after a 12-year hiatus and have been really enjoying this fall weather. Is there anything better than chasing rutting elk in Montana in September? Maybe chasing fish on the hardwater? In fact, looking at next week’s forecast I have to ask: can ice fishing season be too far away?

For those of us who fish quite a bit in the fall, one of the best things we can do is to make note of several things we see while we are out fishing. Simply put, where fish are in late fall is the first place to look for them at first ice. Using your sonar and GPS, marking weed lines and edges, and other structures with fish around them makes drilling those first holes less of a guess. Taking some time while in the boat, marking waypoints, tracing out structure areas and even transferring them to your hand held GPS will pay great dividends.

Bringing the ice sonar along and comparing what you are used to seeing on your open water sonar to what it looks like on your Vexilar or Marcum units can help you be more efficient and certain of what you are really seeing below the ice. Get the batteries charged up and even replaced if they are more than three years old. Older batteries really show their weakness out in the cold so starting the new season with a fresh battery is always a good choice. I always have a spare or two ready to go in case of an on ice failure.

It is also a good idea to take some of that ice fishing tackle out on the boat for a day. Make sure the rods and reels are in good working order, and that your ice jigs and lures are ready to go. At home, I start with my bigger items, checking the fabric of ice shelters for holes or rodent damage, lubing zippers and cleaning out any leftover crud from last season.

Power augers need attention now too, so get them out and start them up. Hopefully, you put your auger to sleep for the summer correctly and it fires right up, but if it doesn’t, it is most likely fuel related. Using a quality, small-engine specific fuel like VP’s SEF94 eliminates these issues. A new spark plug and a light coating of oil on all the moving parts is best done NOW, before it gets colder as the lubricants will reach all the places it needs to.

Look at your ATV’s and snowmobiles and make sure they are ready to go. Batteries, fuel systems, tracks and tires should be checked now, it’s much more pleasant now with the weather and you won’t be surprised when it is time to go fishing. At the minimum, when the boat gets winterized and put away, getting the motorized ice gear ready should be an integral part of that process.

Modern day ice fishing looks nothing like what Grandpa did back in the day. Mobility, comfort and safety are light years ahead of where they were when I first ice fished and information is everywhere. Whether you are a seasoned icehead, or just getting into it, if you love to fish, and don’t go ice fishing, you are “missing the boat.” If, like me, you can’t wait for first ice, following the above advice will mean you are ready to go when that first layer of ice covers the lakes.

Oh, and check out “http://fwp.mt.gov/fwpDoc.html?id=76608” for this season’s approved ice fishing contests. See you on the “water.”

Howe runs Howes Fishing/A Able Charters. Contact him at www.howesfishing.com or 257-5214 or be emailing Mike@aablefishing.com

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