Game Over: Storing Ice Fishing Gear
The season was brief but don't forget about properly storing ice fishing gear!
Our ice fishing season has ended about as quickly as it started and now we are focused on open water angling opportunities. It’s easy to just throw our hard water equipment in the corner of garage, barn or shed and call it good. But paying a little attention to your shanty, clothing, rods, reels, electronics and augers will save you time and money next season.
Ice fishing has come a long way over the past few years. The old Schooley style fiberglass ice rods with plastic spool screwed to the handle have given way to short, graphite rods and spinning reels. The clip-on lead weight we call “depth finders” have been replaced with sophisticated, portable electronics that not only show depth, but bottom content and even fish. This equipment should be properly maintained to keep in proper working order for years to come.
Before storing your shanty until next winter, pick a nice day and make sure to clean it. Open it up and spray it down with a garden hose to remove fish slime, road salt and other crud that may have accumulated during the season. Fix ripped canvas, bent poles or those accidental burnt holes from heaters or lanterns. Repair parts can sometimes be found in stores but when all else fails contact the manufacturer’s websites. It’s also the perfect time to lubricate pivot points on the aluminum poles with either a silicone spray or WD-40.
When in storage, mice are the worst on any shanty. Many different types of things are used to keep rodents from chewing holes in the walls of your fish house. I usually place several dryer sheets inside before folding it up for hibernation in my barn. I know of others who use moth balls or repellents like Fresh Cab and Var-Mint, which is made locally. Nothing is worse than opening your shanty for the first time just to have mouse nest debris flying all over the place and the walls riddled with new holes.
Electronics are not cheap and have become a major ice fishing improvement but they need special care. Wash what you can with warm water and dry thoroughly. Clean the screens with a vinegar solution and soft cloth to remove water spots. Make sure batteries are fully charged and keep your electronics in an area that won’t get too hot during the summer months. It’s always a good idea to pull them out a couple times throughout the year and plug it in to make sure the battery stays up at full charge extending their life.
Now is the time to run your ice fishing clothes through the wash to remove all the fish slime you have rubbed on your pants legs. Clothes made specifically for ice fishing have many special attributes that you won’t want to compromise so follow the manufacturer’s directions to avoid damage.
Show your rods, reels and tackle some love. Wipe down your ice fishing rods and most of all, store them so they remain straight. Make sure to remove all tension from the rod by loosening the line or you might create a permanent bend in the rod tip. One of my favorite St. Croix ice rods now veers to the left because I failed to do so several years back. It doesn’t take long to give the reels a quick wipe then remove the spool and place a few drops of oil down the spindle.
If terminal tackle is still damp or wet make sure to open your tackle box and let everything dry out. Nothing is worse than preparing to enjoy the first seasonal outing to find most of the hooks on smaller ice fishing lures have rusted.
Don’t forget about your auger either. Whether yours is a hand, electric or gas powered auger, they all need a little maintenance which can save you costly repairs. Gas should be drained from power augers then started to run dry. This helps to make sure gunk or spoiled fuel will not damage engine components. Hand augers and their razor sharp blades should be carefully wiped down with a light oil to prevent pitting and rust.
With just a little effort you will save time and money and be ready to roll when next winter’s ice fishing makes its grand return.