Mid-April signals that time of the year to put your ice fishing gear away for another season. However, taking the time to properly store it during the off season will save you a ton of grief next winter.
Start with your rods and reels. As a rule, only about half of the line on your ice fishing reel gets used. There are exeptions. That leaves half the line on your reel new and unused. But the line that’s been spooled tight over long periods of time causes even the best line to maintain a memory. The line that has a memory wants to coil up as you spool it out. If there’s any slack in the line while you’re fishing it will begin to coil up and the line becomes visible to the fish you are trying to catch next year. Therefore, at the end of the season remove and discard the line, but don’t re-spool your reels until the next ice fishing season. There is no need to have tightly spooled line on your ice reels throughout the summer months.
While the line is removed, take the time to lubricate the gears and bearings in the reel. This is rarely done on ice fishing reels but it’s an important step in keeping ice reels in game shape. Store all fishing rods and tip-ups where nothing will be placed on top of them during the offseason. Check all hooks and repair, replace and sharpen as needed. This is something you can do while watching hockey playoffs.
Once you have gone through your tackle move on to the one piece of ice fishing gear that often gets overlooked, but is the first thing we curse if it doesn’t work – your gas auger. At the end of the season, the remaining gas should be drained and a fuel stabilizer added and forced through the fuel lines with the primer bulb. This step is often overlooked, however, taking the time to drain the fuel and adding an additive will prevent gaskets, O-rings, seals, and fuel lines from drying out during storage. Store the power head in the upright position and cover the cutting blades. If your auger needs new cutting blades purchase them now while it’s fresh in your mind. If you forget, the first holes you drill next season may be tough drilling.
Tip: Sporting stores usually put their remaining ice fishing gear on sale at the end of the season. Also, some stores have a recycling drop-off for used fishing line.