I don’t know about you, but towards the end of the season my thoughts were already on the ice. I was sitting by an ice hole, searching for winter perches, roaches and breams. Unfortunately, reality always verifies our plans and assumptions, often quite brutally. Very few days of freezing temperatures, interspersed with practically spring-like periods, didn’t provide a stable and sure ice cover. Oh well. Of course, you could sit with your arms crossed, wait and look at the mercury level in the thermometer until it starts to fall, but you could also begin your preparations.
It’s worth winding up new lines before the season. I use the Tsubame Under Ice monofilaments. They’re soft and sold on short skeins that are more than enough for winter fishing. Even the small diameters that I use for winter fishing keep appropriate durability. For fishing with mormyshkas I use monofilaments about 0.08 mm thick, and for spinners slightly thicker ones, between 0.1 and 0.14 mm.
As we are getting ready for ice-fishing, let’s remember that the equipment doesn’t need to be fancy and expensive. It’s a good idea to make sure that elements of the set are well-chosen and that together they make a cohesive whole. I recommend paying much more attention to the matter of safety, which in the case of ice-fishing is the most important issue. First of all, we need to remember that there’s no such thing as “safe ice.” Even the thickest ice won’t have the same thickness across the whole surface. Pay attention to mires, underwater sources, or areas close to the old bed in dam reservoirs. All these places can turn out to be very dangerous, even when the ice cover is as thick as 0.5 meter only a few dozen meters away.
Ice-fishing safety measures.
The first and most important rule is not to go on ice that is too thin. It’s better to wait a few more days than to spend weeks at home, taking medicine.
It’s very important to have good, i.e. warm, clothing. A floating suit is a luxury, but a very useful one. Apart from ensuring thermal comfort, it will also guarantee that you stay on the water surface, should the ice break. It’s a good idea to pay attention to all the elements of clothing, including a hat and gloves. I also recommend taking a small towel with you. A wet hand will get cold much faster, especially if it’s windy. The last element is the shoes, which should have a thick, non-slippery sole and control the ankle.
On the ice without a layer of snow the so-called crampons, that is anti-slipping overlays on the soles of the shoes, are a necessity. Falling down on the ice, with all the equipment, especially close to the drill or ice chisel, could result in serious injury. Since I already mentioned the equipment used for breaking the ice cover: I recommend an ice chisel for the first ice. You’ll make holes in ice that is not too thick quickly, and additionally as you move around the fishery, you can use it to knock on the ice in front of you, checking its thickness and durability.
A drill will be useful later, when the ice cover is a few dozen centimeters thick. Remember to drill it into the ice after making a hole. The blade of the drill is incredibly sharp and every contact with it can have unpleasant consequences, such as cut clothing, or a deep wound. Be responsible for yourself and for your angling colleagues.
Another necessary element is the emergency spikes. These small handles with spikes will let you get back onto the ice surface if it happens to break. Even a floating suit can be quite useless if you aren’t able to get out of the water onto the ice. The most certain rescue is a friend’s hand, or a line he casts, but on an individual trip you need to rely on yourself. It’s another argument for going fishing in a group. With a team of talented anglers you’ll work out the fishery faster. Apart from the great atmosphere on such trips, there is always someone to take a photo with your catch, and the safety level increases when you keep eye contact with someone.
I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that everything that is left on the ice will eventually find its way to the water. Clean your spot after you’re done because it reflects on more than just your behavior. The same goes for what you do with the fish you catch. I’m disgusted by the sight of an angler surrounded by fish he’d thrown around, dying on the ice surface. Of course, according to the rules you can take some number of fish home. If you want to eat a few fish, kill them immediately as quickly as possible and put them inside a bucket or an angling basket.
Good luck on your fishing trips,