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The New Ice Age
by Ron Anlauf

There was a time when ice fishing was simply something to do, something to help shorten up the winter.That was then and this is now as things have definitely changed. Changes like vastly improved gear and equipment have lead the way, not to mention all of the information available to today’s modern ice angler. What it all adds up to is increased opportunities to help you be much more comfortable, make it easier to be mobile, and ultimately help you catch more fish. Gone are the days of freezing your extremities off, or ending up with a sore back from spending too much time sitting on a bucket. It can still happen but it doesn’t have to be that way, especially when you look at what’s available to the modern ice angler. For example; there has been a huge improvement in portable fish houses which is an absolute must, that is unless you’re willing to give up most of your mobility. Today’s modern portables set up in seconds, offer plenty of room, and are surprisingly comfortable. Eskimo has introduced their new Profish shelters which have a thick padded bench seat and back rest. The back rest folds forward in sections and allows easy access to the back of the sled. The bench seat is hinged and also lifts up in sections and makes it an easy reach to get to the bottom of the sled. There’s also an optional heavy duty hitch available that will allow you to quickly hook up to a snowmobile or ATV which can create the ultimate ice angling machine. With a setup like that you can move in on a spot, drill a hole or two, flip the top of the Eskimo over and you’re fishing. If things aren’t going well you can simply flip it back over and be on your way tothe next hotspot. What it all means is that you can work a lot more spots in the course of a day, and increase your odds of finding the mother load. It wasn’t that long ago when most anglers were struggling with hand powered augers to get a couple of holes drilled, and that was about all they could do late in the season when the layers of ice really piled up. That fact alone kept ice fisherman stuck in one place hoping for the best, and severely limited their range. Fortunately for us the introduction of gas powered augers have all but eliminated the aforementioned limitation and greatly expanded the reach of the well equipped ice angler. Gas augers like the Eskimo Shark cut holes unbelievably fast and can turn a specific area into Swiss cheese in a matter of minutes.

Using goof grsr helps bring in nice fish

Besides the huge improvements in comfort, there has also been advancements in electronics that haveproven to be invaluable for finding and catching fish. Color electronic depth finders, G.P.S. units, and underwater cameras have all added to the fun. Multi-color depth finders like the Marcum LX-5 and the new LX-2 show density changes in color and are incredibly sensitive and allow you to see fish and determine size, watch your baits, and even see if you still have a minnow on your hook. G.P.S. units are real handy and have come down in price, to the point that anybody can afford one

They have also become much easier to use and are respectably accurate. My sled actually has a Humminbird Matrix mounted on the dash which is a permanently mounted GPS with a nice big screen that can display highly detailed electronic charts like those available from Navionics. The big dash mount unit is much easier to see while running and lets me keep my hands on the bars where they belong. An angler can use a G.P.S. to easily find a prior hot spot, locate a honey hole that someone else keyed you in on, or safely get you back off the ice if you stay too long or the weather takes a turn for the worse. The safety factor becomes extremely important when fishing big waters or where dangerous ice exists as it is much to easy to get goofed up when visibility is limited. Underwater cameras have proven to be fun, and educational. Instead of guessing about what’s really down there now you can take a look for yourself, which can better help you to understand what your depth finder is showing you. Marcum’s VS560 has a camera that rotates 360 degrees in a housing which makes setting it up for depth and direction a snap. It also will give you a depth and temperature reading at the camera. There’s even been big improvements in fishing rods that have been designed specifically for today’s ice angler. The old ice fishing sticks with a small amount of line stored on a couple of short dowels and a sharp tip for stabbing it in the ice have been replaced by high tech graphite and fiberglass rods that are a pleasure to use, and there is a style and model to accommodate just about any situation and any species. Although graphite is considered to be the latest and greatest material for a high tech rod blanks, fiberglass still has it’s place. Where fiberglass excels is when a light bite indicator is needed, like when you’re chasing panfish such as crappies and bluegills. Fiberglass tips can be made incredibly slender and retain enough strength to resist breakage, and is where graphite really comes up short. The skinny wispy glass tips can reveal the tiniest of bites and give you a chance to set the hook before the bait is rejected. Spring bobbers are a good option if you’re stuck on graphite and can make a real difference. There are more lures available now in more shapes and sizes than ever before that are designed specifically for attracting and catching just about every species of fish that happens to swim beneath a sheet of ice. Northland Tackle for example has added more sizes and colors including plenty of Super-Glo, which can help to attract fish in dark or stained water and especially after dark. They’ve also include red Wounded Bait Hooks, and if you haven’t tried red you probably should. The thing is if you don’t get with it and get on the ice this season you really are going to miss out. There are so many great opportunities to be had like chasing walleyes on Lake of the Woods or Erie, bluegills on Lake Okoboji in northern Iowa, or maybe lake trout in Canada. With all those fish and so little time you better get moving if you’re going to get your share.

Ron Anlauf

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