Forget the traditional ice hut. To catch more fish this winter, get mobile instead.
by Leavon Peleikis
Some anglers feel they’re at a disadvantage when walking because they’re not covering enough ice, but on many smaller bodies of water, that’s simply not an issue. And there are many times, especially at first ice, when I leave the snowmobile behind out of safety concerns. Whatever the case, the key to being an effective ice angler when you head out on foot is to stay organized and bring just the right gear for the task at hand.
First and foremost, a quality ice suit is essential for the run-and-gun angler. Now, I’m not talking about a heavy-duty outfit that will keep you warm in -50°C weather. Instead, all you need is a nice, light suit that won’t make you sweat to death when walking long distances. Moisture is your enemy when you’re trying to stay warm, so look for a suit that’s 100 per cent waterproof and breathable.
Next on the list are snowshoes. I didn’t start using them until a few years ago, and they’ve been a game changer ever since. The amount of energy they save me, even in snow as little as eight inches deep, is astounding. I wear a light pair of aluminum snowshoes and take them off once I arrive at the spot I plan to fish.
Another essential accessory is a set of quality ice cleats. Bare ice is not only a safety hazard, but the effort it takes to keep your balance and not slip will tire you out just as much as walking through deep snow. Cleats will keep you safe and leave you with the energy and confidence you need to keep moving all day.
We anglers are drawn to the latest technologies and tackle, giving us the terrible habit of accumulating more gear than we’ll ever use. Need proof? Take a look in your own tackle trays. Out of the dozens of lures you carry, how many do you actually use? Five or six? Me too.
For this reason, I’ve been trimming back and bringing only what I need for a specific outing, keeping the load as light as possible. Instead of packing two or three full trays of tackle, for example, I’ve found it much more beneficial to only take a few select lures in a four-by-six-inch tray. It’s small enough that I can even keep it in my jacket pocket. The same holds true when it comes to gear such as rods, flags and electronics—I only take what I know I’ll use.
To further help minimize the gear I take along when I head out on foot, I don’t pull a toboggan or portable shelter of any kind. I find they’re a huge burden when walking, especially in any amount of snow. If you were to pull a portable by hand, however, you’d want a lightweight sleigh with low, resistant runners and an extra-long tow rope. As for me, I pack everything in a small ergonomic backpack when I’m on foot, leaving my arms free to sling the auger over my shoulder.