Season Switch (by Mike Howe of A Able Fishing Charters & Tours)
By angelamontana

Posted: March 27, 2015

howeI put the short rods away this week, along with my augers, electronics and cold weather gear. I always am reluctant to put the ice fishing gear away, as I really, really enjoy ice fishing, but it’s almost April and that means more and more open water opportunities every day. And even though I struggle with saying goodbye, I try very hard to do the required maintenance and proper care for the equipment so it is ready to go next ice season.

Just like I suggested here last fall, taking the time to put your gear away correctly, means the next time you see it, there shouldn’t be any surprises. Making a ritual out of putting away last season’s gear while awakening this seasons, to me at least, makes the process fun and not a chore. Here are some suggestions to make sure the ice fishing gear gets put to bed properly.

With my augers, I always store them with a full tank of stabilized fuel, or better yet, the pre-mixed fuel in a can, like VP Racing SEF 94. It is important for these small engines to be “wet stored”, or with fuel in the carburetor to avoid drying out the small but critical seals and gaskets. I run them for 5 minutes or so to make sure the good fuel gets circulated. Then, everything gets a good spraying with light oil, switches, pivot points and especially the blades. I store my augers upright as laying them on their side for extended period’s puts pressure on the driveshaft bearings.

For my electronics, I remove the batteries, give them a final charge and store them in the basement. Around June, I will give these batteries a mid-season charge and they will be ready to go in the fall. If you have a battery that is more than three years old now, you might want to expect you will need to replace it before next season. 99% of the issues with today’s portable fish finders and underwater cameras are due to weak batteries, even though they may show a full charge.

Lastly, for any reels I won’t be switching over for open water use, I make sure to back off the drags so they do not sit for 6-8 months with pressure on the drag system. Everything gets a good coating of “Reel Magic” spray and I don’t need to give them another thought until October. If I am storing the rods and reels together, with a lure still attached, I make sure the rods do not have any bend in them at all. Sitting for a long time with a bend will weaken the rod and the rod will “set” in that position.

As for “waking up” the open water gear, everything gets spread out and closely examined. Unless I put new line on my reels for fall fishing, all my reels that I use monofilament line on will get new line. I examine rods and rod guides for any nicks or other damage and go over all my jigs and lures for rust, missing or damaged paint and bent or dull hooks. Going over everything may take the better part of a day, but it is time well spent to avoid any surprises on the water.

Ice is going off our local lakes quickly, with more opportunities for shore angling every day. I have heard the Perch bite down on East Bay in Polson is starting to wake up. As the water warms in the shallows, the Perch move in to spawn and this is some of the finest angling we have in the spring. You need your south Flathead Lake permit, as this is on the reservation. Check my blog at for more detailed info in the days to come. I’ll see you on the water!

(Written by Mike Howe)

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