No matter how hard you rode your gear this winter, it should never be put away wet.
“The worse thing for your hooks, when not in use, is any kind of moisture,” cautions ICE FORCE Pro-Staffer Bryan “Beef” Sathre. “So when you come off the ice for the last time this year, let all your baits sit out to dry before storing them over the off-season.”
That tip tops Beef’s list of recommendations for off-season storage of ice-fishing gear. He was reminded of the need for preventative maintenance following a season-ending trip to Lake of the Woods.
“When I got home and started unpacking the back of my pickup, I noticed how a lot of my gear was soaked, from splashing all over the lake, coming off the ice,” recalls Beef, an in-demand fishing guide in the Bemidji, Minnesota, area. “A lot of guys will just unload their gear and put it away and not think about that — those guys will probably have dull, rusty hooks next season.”
At the end of the season, Beef places small silica packs in his ice-tackle boxes. Silica packs, which come in almost every box of electronics and many other products you buy, absorb moisture from the air. Instead of throwing them away, save them for your tackleboxes.
“Then you don’t have to worry about humidity getting in there and rusting your hooks,” Beef explains.
Rod and Reel Storage
To ensure optimal performance from his reels next winter, Beef strips them of all line, removes them from their rods, takes them apart and re-oils all their moving parts.
“And then after I put them back together, I don’t tighten my drag back down all the way,” he says. “That can help prolong the life of your components.”
As for his ice-fishing rods, Beef removes them from their travel cases and hangs them up high in a low-traffic corner of his garage.
Time To Take Inventory
In Minnesota and other states in the Ice Belt, the legal open-water fishing season does not open until a month or more after ice is no longer safe to traverse, effectively ending the ice-fishing season. The down-time offers the perfect opportunity to take inventory.
“Between the seasons here, we do have a month and a half off, so there’s plenty of time to reorganize your tackle and determine what you need to replace,” Beef says. “Then you can start re-reading all the magazines, and watching all the videos and shows and get yourself excited and primed up for the next year.”
Reflect back on your season and recall what baits were effective and determine if you have enough of them — and in the right sizes and colors. Were there any hot baits you heard about, but didn’t have and couldn’t get because they were sold out?
“Remember what that hot bait was that you didn’t have, and stock up on them,” Beef says. “Chances are, it will still be a hot bait next year.”
Hot baits – especially those featured in magazines and fishing shows – often fly off the shelves during the peak of the ice-fishing season and can remain on back-order until after the ice melts. So if there was something you wanted but couldn’t get this season, keep an eye on your favorite retailer’s website or in-store and get it as soon as it becomes available again.
“If you wait until ice-up next winter, you might go another season without that hot bait,” Beef cautions. “Early bird gets the worm, you know.”