Changing Seasons and the Preparation for Approaching Ice
By: Pat Rodger
In the past few weeks as the temperatures start to drop and leaves start to fall from the trees one of the saddest things I have to do is put our boat away to hibernate for the winter months. Yes I know the hunt will be on soon, but my passion lies with fishing.
I really focus on ice fishing at this time but the wait is long. During this time I prepare all my ice gear. My auger will get new blades and a new plug. Fresh gas will wait until my first date with the ice. My portable fish house is lowered from the ceiling in the garage and set up in the driveway for a little black top fishing and a couple of pops. During this time I inspect and pack it with all the necessities like the heater, ice scoop, ect. I then inspect and recharge the flasher battery at which time I wonder if it needs to be replaced. Next and just as important I start to replace all those hot lures that worked last year and of course I must get the new stuff that’s on the market. This is a check list that drives Mrs. Woodpat crazy but I remind her that I “catch’m , clean’m, and cook’m.” she just laughs.
Every time I go through this process, I wonder back in time and think of how far technology has come, and how much of a better ice fisherman I have become because of this. I think way back to when I was about knee high to my Dad. He would gather up me and my two younger brothers and take us to a nearby lake to do some ice fishing.
Now mind you this is before the wheel was invented we didn’t have ice armor or anything similar to it. Warmth was supplied by “long johns.” Gortex and thinsulate was a thing of the future. Snowmobile boots they almost kept our feet warm. When your feet got cold you ran around like you were nuts till your feet warmed up. Think of that the next time your kid tackles you on the ice. A pair of choppers kept you hands warm as long as you kept them dry. And I don’t think that the blaze orange stocking cap is ever going to die off, I still see it at football games.
We would all load up in the old Ford pickup with the round nose Ski doo in tow on the trailer behind and head to the lake. The drive back then seemed to take hours. I’m not sure if it was the speed limit or anticipation but going to Turtle Lake or Bald Eagle is not that far from Northeast Minneapolis.
Back then, finding fish meant that you would elbow you way into the crowd. Get out that old 6 inch spoon auger take the leather blade protector off and start drilling. It would take all three of us boys to get through one hole, but pops he was done in a flash and had his green box running and looking for some pannies. While we boys were still working on hole #2.
By the time we had three holes done we were wet with sweat and had to get some lines down. Out came the old hockey stick shafts cut into two foot sections a 16 penny nail driven into one end and ground off so you could poke it into the ice. A couple of smaller nails spread out about a foot or so held our line on. Oh it would have been nice to have some micro ice line back then, but no we had 20-30lb line tied up to a eagle claw hook. The person that invented the crimp on sinker must be in Mexico enjoying the sand because it is one of the only things that has not changed since then. Once set up you would drop your line down and gauge your depth by your bobber, once it sat up straight you would take another foot of line to get it off the bottom and then you would wait.
Once your bobber went down you would grab the line and reach for the sky “set the hook.” Hand over hand pulling that line up. Man that 6 inch perch was a trophy. Put another minnow on and spend 15 minutes untangling your line to get it back down the hole. Those were the days.
In a month or so it’s a different ballgame, hand augers that cut 3 feet of ice as fast as power augers (just hope you’re still in shape to do it.) With the power augers so you can now cut 30-50 holes so you can do some trolling. Flashers that will tell you if you are on weeds, rocks or that car that went through the ice some time back. A hand held GPS so you can set up on those late fall weeds. Bobbers have been replaced by spring bobbers or rods that are sensitive enough to feel a fish sneeze. Portable fish houses and heaters to keep you warm all day or night.
Bait is something that has changed a lot. I still buy my occasional spikes but plastics are my go to now. Who would of thought that a piece of rubber would catch fish?
I remember a picture of a young boy fishing off a dock with a cane pole a plain hook and some worms with a stringer of fish tied to the dock. Now I’m in the league of who has the most lures wins. Why is it that we strive on being light weighted so we are free to move, but need 500 lures?
I hope this story makes all of us look back and smile at the memories that we have and snicker about the memories that are to come. I wish you all a great hard water season and please be safe so that you can share your memories with all of us here.