Fishing & Boating News

Too Cool for First Ice

by: Ron Anlauf,

Photo by Ron Anlauf
Photo by Ron Anlauf
(Oct. 08, 2012 - Braham, MN)

There's more cool stuff available for angler's plotting against this fish this winter including new electric augers, more insulated houses, and super sweet fishing rods. Not to mention more itty bitty baits. It all adds up to more gear designed to make your time on the ice more comfortable, more productive and much more fun.

The trend in shelters has been a move towards insulated covers and for good reason: they're warmer, quieter, and they don't sweat. Having fished out of an insulated house I really don't want to spend my time on the ice in anything else. The difference is dramatic; especially when it comes to trying to stay warm in the most severe conditions. In years past it took a lot of intestinal fortitude to stay on the ice and not give up when faced with below zero temps and a stiff wind. I've been there and stayed with it but it wasn't all that much fun. Insulation changes that and allows you to stay out longer (as long as you want) which means you have a better chance of running into what you're really after.

Eskimo introduced an insulated hub style house in 2011 called the Fatfish 949i which was a huge hit. For 2012 they've brought the IQ (insulated quilted) fabric to three of their flip over houses including; one, two, and three man models. The one man is called Wide1 and is super sweet and comes with an expandable footprint. Basically the bottom bracket that rests on the ice expands and provides 32% more fishable area allowing room for actually working two holes and as a walleye fisherman; that's a big deal. It also has a super comfortable, collapsible and removable Versa Ice Chair that provides more room for storing gear when folded down, and doesn't pinch your hips like the molded plastic variety. The one and two man shelters are called the FlipMo2 and FlipMo3 and also come with the Versa Chairs. The ability to lay down flat really opens up the interior for storing and hauling gear. The fact that they are removable allows you to pull a chair out if you don't need it, or take it out on the warmer days when you to want to fish outside and need something to sit on and beats the daylights out of sitting on an upside bucket.

Gas augers have really opened up the amount of water you can fish in a day and there are some powerful options available including the Eskimo Shark Z51 and Z71. New for this year is the Hypercoil which is a cool new recoil that reduces the amount of energy required to pull it by up to 62%. It has a different feel the first time you try it but is a nice improvement. It eliminates the need to really yank on it to get the motor started. Just a nice smooth easy pull and the engine spins and starts, awesome!

Some of the earliest power augers were electric (which was an improvement over using a chisel) but they really came up short when it came to mobility and speed. The newer electrics haven't interested me much because of their lack of speed and the number of holes they can drill on a charge but things have changed. Now there is Ion, which is a new superfast electric that can go toe to toe with gas and drill up to 40 holes through 2 feet on ice on a single charge. That's amazing and a real good reason to try an electric. Besides not having to monkey with gas; there's no smoke, and the Ion is incredibly light (only 22 pounds). I've never been one to carry a gas auger in my flip over shelter because of the threat of a leak which could make fishing out of it unbearable. The Ion changes that and I can see cutting most of my holes this coming season with an electric.

There are more great sticks for ice fishing including some high tech rods and reels designed specifically for targeting panfish including the new Black Betty 6061 from 13 Ice. The 6061 looks like a fly reel but is definitely not! Fly reels eliminate line twist and is the reason that the most serious panfish anglers prefer them over spinning reels. Line twist can destroy a super light super delicate presentation and spinning reels add plenty of twist. Basically; a spinning bait is not a natural occurrence and can turn fussy fish off. Fly reels don't twist the line but only retrieve at a 1 to 1 ratio and are really limited to shallow water use. The 6061 changes that with its 17 inches of retrieve per turn and opens up deeper water use, and panfish are often found in deeper water!

There's some great new plastic baits that have proven themselves to even more effective than the real deal and includes Northland Tackle's Impulse Stone Fly. It's a scent impregnated bait that has lifelike antennas and legs that make it look good enough to eat (if you're a perch, sunfish, or bluegill that is). If you decide to go big Northland has a new Flourocarbon quick-strike Predator Rig that allows your presentation to look as natural as possible.

To help you see the fish and those itty bitty baits in any depth of water Humminbird has introduced the ICE597ci HD Combo which has a brilliant high definition LED display that looks great no matter what the light conditions. It's similar to the 385ci Combo and includes a dual beam sonar and internal G.P.S with chartplotting but has a bigger screen and bigger is better when it comes to displaying a high definition electronic map like the ones available from LakeMaster. It makes for a powerful combination that can help you find the spots and then find the fish. See you on the ice.

Ron Anlauf
Photo by Ron Anlauf