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Family ice fishing in the western mountains
Brian Clunie is pictured with a healthy northern pike from the Belgrade Lakes Region. The proper gear gives ice anglers the ability to travel and fish in many prime locations around the state. (Photo by William Clunie)
Ice fishing on the many lakes and ponds that dot this region can be an enjoyable way to spend a winter day, and a healthy way to get the whole family outdoors.
In order to encourage the family to make repeat visits to the ice-covered ponds and lakes, be sure to have the proper cold weather clothing available for keeping the kids warm, as well as the right gear for taking fish through the ice.
Get the children into layers of merino wool undergarments and outer layers insulated with something like PrimaLoft or Thinsulate. The wool retains warmth even if it gets wet, and the super insulators, PrimaLoft and Thinsulate, finish the job by keeping the cold away from the body.
Good insulated boots, a tremendous help in fighting the cold weather, often get overlooked. Take the time to outfit the family with good boots that have enough insulation to stay warm even if it gets down below zero degrees.
L. L. Bean (llbean.com) offers boots for cold weather made for all family members. A new pac boot this year from the Freeport company, billed as the “Warmest boot we’ve ever built,” has 1,200-grams of PrimaLoft insulation. This one sounds like it would fit any and all ice-fishing footwear requirements perfectly.
Speaking of staying warm – since I’ve started using my portable ice fishing shelter from Clam Trap (clamoutdoors.com), I haven’t had a day where it was too cold to fish. It’s really more of a tent on a tote sled than an ice shack, but wow does it ever hold the heat. I use a little Coleman Black Cat propane heater to warm the shack, and it gets awful comfy in no time at all.
This is one awesome unit -– a tent frame with a tarp-like cover, built on a heavy-gauge plastic tote sled. I have it loaded with all of my gear for ice fishing, never having to worry about forgetting some piece of important gear. I can haul it out on the ice with a snowmobile, or drag it myself – it is light enough for me to lift into the bed of the truck.
A good ice auger really makes a difference, too.
I’ve owned and used several Jiffy augers (jiffyonice.com) over the years and have never had a complaint. They start up in the coldest weather, and always seem to buzz right through the thickest ice.
This year, Jiffy offers their regular line of two-stroke augers, as well as a new four-stroke auger, and several unique models powered by propane – and one that runs on a battery. Take your pick, these augers get it done.
Locating good ice fishing waters comes next on the list. Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website (mefishwildlife.com) offers loads of valuable fishing information for searching anglers. Check the stocking lists, and regional biologist’s reports for lakes and ponds that look promising.
Joining an ice-fishing organization allows interested anglers access to the best kind of ice-fishing information.
Tim Jackson, a corporate member of the Maine Ice Anglers Association, owns and operates Jack Traps (jacktraps.com), a company dedicated to producing the highest quality ice-fishing traps available. He enjoys welcoming new members into the sport, and jumps at the chance to give newcomers helpful fishing hints.
Most ice fishers like talking about their “secret” methods for taking big fish. The exact location where they catch the big ones usually remains a true secret. Finding a fish-producing, secret ice-fishing hole on your own requires a little time and effort, but the memories of a remote ice-fishing excursion with the family last a lifetime.