The season is changing
While ice fishing still looms at the northern parts of the state, it is pretty much over for Central Iowa. That only signifies that early spring is around the corner and soon we will be casting our favorite baits in the wide open rivers and lakes that we love. With the recent forecast, that won’t be too long in the future. So, the season is changing from ice fishing to open water fishing, but the opportunities to cast your line aren’t quite favorable in Central Iowa just yet. So what is there to do?
There still are a few opportunities to head north to Clear Lake, or the Okoboji area lakes and ice fish. However, most people in the state have had it with winter and just want spring to get here. As for me … traveling north to find ice still sounds great! I am a small percent of anglers, so for those of you already looking forward to the open water, I have some tips for you this week.
It is important to end your ice fishing on a good note. I am not saying go out and fish one more time, but take a few hours and put all you rice fishing gear away correctly. This starts with your auger. If you have a power auger you should drain the gas tank and run the engine dry. I always spray some fogging oil in my gas auger to help protect the moving parts inside the engine for the long off-season. Wipe the engine down and do a quick inspection of the unit so it is ready to go next winter. Next, make sure and give your electronics some special care. GPS, Vexilars or any other electronic you use for ice fishing needs a few minutes of your time. All batteries should be taken out of these devices to avoid corrosion. It is important to keep these batteries charged throughout the summer though. A couple times during the off season will extend the life of those batteries and get you started on the right foot come next winter. Lastly, take the time to sort through jig boxes and get them updated for next year. I like to buy jigs now so they are ready to go for next winter.
Now that you have put away your ice fishing gear, it is time to focus in on the tackle, rods and reels that will get your attention for the next 6 or 7 months. The most important thing you can do before you head out to your first fishing adventure is put new line on your reels. This is most common problem that I see from anglers in the spring. Line that has been on your reels all winter long, especially if kept in a cold garage is ruined. I am a huge proponent for changing line, and there is no better time to do so than right now. Fresh line will put new life to your reel, and let you cast that extra distance that you will want. If you are chasing panfish you will want to line your reels with six or eight point test line. This type of line will allow you to fish smaller jigs and bobber set-ups so commonly used when fishing for panfish. If you go after the larger game species such as walleye, bass, catfish and northern pike, then you will want to be in the twelve to twenty pound test range. Larger the fish, larger the pound test line. Another thing you will want to do is give some attention to your reels. Each reel is a fine tuned machine with dozens of parts in them. These parts, whether they are plastic or metal need lubrication. Some of these parts need grease, while others need oil. Check your manufactures website for tips on where and what to use when lubricating your reels. Rods need a little attention but not much of your time. The most important thing you can do with your rods is inspect the eyelets for cracks or nicks. A lot of eyelets are made with ceramic that can easily crack or get damaged over time. A damaged piece of ceramic can fray or even cut your line. The best way to test them is to take a Q-tip and run it around each eyelet in both directions to see if there are any rough spots. If so, they need to be repaired so that big one doesn’t get away!
Lastly, and probably the most fun, is your tackle. It is a great time to take inventory of your tackle to be sure you have enough hooks, sinkers, bobbers and the countless numbers of artificial baits that we all love to use. The stores are fully stocked now, but by the first week of April supplies will be limited of items. Now is the time to load up on your favorites so that you have plenty in the weeks and months to come.
I hope your next Outdoor Ambition is a great one, whether you simply take a walk to enjoy a nice spring day, or visit the local river or lake to see what might bite on the end of line. Be safe and enjoy your time in the outdoors.