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Ice Fishing Tips

I started ice fishing a while ago and would like to share a few things that I have learned.  Some of this may seem like common sense, but I would rather write it down than have someone not enjoy their time because they didn't think about it.

Do your homework.  Don't ever assume that you know what the ice conditions will be where you are fishing.  It pays to check weather and ice conditions from fishing websites and forums.  Beware of people that only say "the ice is safe".  Safe is a relative thing.  Look for solid answers like "7 inches of clear ice."  If it's your first time out, be prepared to hear the ice groan and crack, it even moves sometimes.  It can be unnerving, but usually it is a normal occurrence.  

Dress in layers.  It may be cold when you arrive, but if you are fishing from an enclosure, it is common for the temperature to rise dramatically, especially if you have a heater.  Being able to remove a layer or two will help you to be comfortable during the whole trip. 

Test and gather your equipment before you leave.  Make sure your auger will start and that the blades are installed correctly.  Nothing puts a damper on a trip faster than when you can't cut a hole.  Make sure the line on your rods is good.  It doesn't hurt to rig a few poles prior to heading out, it will get you fishing faster.  Make sure your camera is charged so you can record your trip and your trophy. 

Have same safety gear, like a rope in case someone does fall through you can throw them one end without getting close to the dangerous ice.  Have a set of ice picks so if you fall through you can climb out easier.  Make sure someone knows where you will be fishing and when you plan to return.  Give that person a call when you leave so they know you are ok and on your way home.  A personal locating beacon can be a good idea, especially if you plan on fishing alone. 

When you arrive at the lake, be sure to test the thickness of the ice prior to trekking out too far.  It is a good practice to verify the ice conditions and thickness for yourself.  After you get set-up, make sure to trust your electronics.  They will tell you not only if fish are present, but what they are attracted to.  Vary your presentation and pay attention to what the fish do as it changes.  Keep doing what works!  A very wise person told me once, to fish with as many rods as the law allows.  In Colorado that is two, with a second rod stamp.  One rod should be left as a deadstick while the other rod should never stop moving.  The deadstick will probably catch fewer fish, but you would hate to miss a monster because he didn't like your jigging technique.  Don't be afraid to change locations.  Sometime the fish aren't where they were even a day ago and you need to search to locate them.

I hope this wasn't too elementary, but instead served as a reminder and maybe gave you a few tips that can make your next journey on the ice safer and more productive.

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