Every year most magazines, bloggers and even TV fishing hosts do a column, feature or episode explaining the importance of winterizing your open water fishing gear. Everything from inexpensive hooks to thousands-of-dollars boats will hibernate through the cold months better and with no damage with proper winterization.
It’s just as important doing a reverse winterization with your other-season fishing gear as the ice melts and the open water season gets started. Everyone understands the evil cold, ice and snow can cause to boats and tackle; but heat, moisture and time can do the same thing to the things you use for ice fishing.
It’s too easy to just pile all your ice gear in the corner of the garage and leave it for next year. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been that guy and will reluctantly admit, it’s cost me. Taking the time to properly “summerize” your ice gear can save you from a big headache when winter returns and you want to drill some holes.
• Portable fish house storage
If use a flip-over or pop-up style fishing shelter, odds are the bottom of your sled is pretty gross from a season’s worth of fish slime, bait, and who knows what else. Take a scrub brush with a little warm, soapy water and clean out those nasty crevices and wipe it all dry. It’s not as fun as going fishing, but you’ll thank yourself come fall.
One of the biggest killers from long-term shack storage is moisture, ultimately leading to mold. The easy way to air out your shelter is to set it up in your yard on a sunny day and really let it dry. Neighbors might look at you funny, but it works.
Throw some dryer sheets and cheap car air fresheners inside when you store it to keep the critters out. A friend of mine says he likes the Gain brand dryer sheets because they smell horrible — at least to mice and insects. He throws eight or ten of them inside and adds a pair of automobile air fresheners to each of his shelters.
Another great way to keep unwanted creatures out of your shack is to store them off the ground. Putting them on a high shelf or hanging them from the rafters is better than storing them on the floor
• Rods, reels and tackle
Dial back the drags on your reels! That one thing increases the longevity of drag systems more than anything.
It won’t hurt to leave monofilament line on ice reels during the off-season but unlike storing line over the winter on summer fishing reels when they will be stored in the cold, heat is a strong factor in making monofilament line deteriorate. Removing all the old line in the spring, forces you to spool on fresh line next winter.
The end of the season is also the perfect time to grease/oil your reels. It’s cheap and can add years to your gear.
Empty out your tackle boxes and wipe down lures for any moisture that’s left, then wipe the inside of the boxes. When you are drying out your shelter, open all your tackle boxes and set them on the picnic table on the same sunny, dry day. You won’t have any rusty jigs come first ice.
Gas augers: Be sure to change the oil and clean the spark plugs. Some like to drain any remaining gas and store the tools completely empty, making sure to pump out all the fuel lines with the primer bulb. Others don’t drain the unused gas but add a premium brand of gasoline stabilizer.
Electric augers: Charge your batteries throughout the off season — monthly if possible — to get the most out of next year. The same goes for batteries you use just to run other electronics.
One last thing…when you’re going through your gear, take an inventory and make a list of what you need for next season. If you’re like me, the list might be pretty long but spring and summer sales often offer steep discounts on ice fishing gear.