Admittedly, a post about keeping busy over the winter should probably be written in early winter. However Jack Frost has no plans to leave anytime soon. There’s 10 inches of ice where I live. I’m sure western MA and the northern New England states have well over a foot. It’s not going to melt anytime soon folks. So even though this post is a little late for the season, it could also be considered a getting ready for the coming season post for those that haven’t gotten ready yet.
Of course ice fishing is an option for many people. I absolutely love ice fishing. I haven’t been able to go the last two weeks because my auger blades dulled to the point of not working at all. To make matters worse, I could not replace or sharpen the blades because they were sold out. I sucked it up and spent a hundred dollars on a Strike Master Lazer auger that should come in today’s mail. I am extremely excited to be able to ice fish again. Words can’t describe my excitement. I understand that not everyone shares my passion for ice fishing. Some just can’t handle the cold weather and develop a severe case of cabin fever. So what to do?
Go to an outdoors show
Most of the shows are over for the year. However the RISAA Saltwater Show is at the end of March. If you are a saltwater fisherman, this is the best show of the year. There are excellent seminars done by true experts. There are lure makers and rod manufacturers. There are many sellers of all sorts of gear. It really is a great show.
Make your own gear
This month The Fisherman Magazine has an article about building your own plug bag for surf fishing. These bags will last forever. It is an awesome feeling to carry around a bag you built yourself. It takes a couple hours to build one. It is definitely a project. Making a bag, although time consuming, is fairly easy. I have made three of them. I have a big heavy surf bag. A smaller bag for the bay with primarily smaller baits that is much lighter than my surf bag. I also made one for walking around ponds freshwater fishing. I only have two compartments in this bag. One for a box of hardbaits. The other compartment is for terminal tackle. Most of the extra space is for bags of soft plastics like grubs, lizards and plastic worms. You can customize it to fit your needs
Another worthy project is to build your own plugs. I do not have the power tools to shape wood so I have to buy preshaped lure bodies. However I have to put the wire through and attach split rings and hooks to them. I paint them myself. There is a lot of satisfaction in catching a fish on something you have made yourself.
Along the same lines I make my own bucktail jigs and deceivers. I use the deceivers primarily as a teaser in front of a heavier lure. My son uses them on his fly rod. Another worthy winter hobby is to tie flies. Although the only flies I tie are deceivers many trout guys tie their own flies, it is a fun hobby that any serious trout fisherman should consider.
Bucktails are easier to make than they are to find at the store for a reasonable price. Hood sizes to use depending on current and depth are from 3/8 up to an once and a half. All is needed are jigheads, red thread and a bucktail.
I also make my own baiting needles for putting corn on a hair rig. Baiting needles are pretty cheap to buy, but if you don’t need to buy anything else from an online carp store the shipping will kill you. I make a bunch at a time and pass them out when I meet new carp fishermen.
Carp fishermen usually use painted sinkers because the sinker is so close to the hook. It is much cheaper to paint unpainted sinkers yourself than to buy them prepainted. You have to heat up the sinker and put into powder paint. This takes a couple tries but is a lot easier than I thought it would be before I started painting them.
Lastly when it comes to making my own gear, I spend a lot of time making my own leaders. I make leaders for carp fishing (a hair rig with a knotless knot). I make fluorocarbon leaders for trout fishing. I make a six foot leader for using a casting bubble and a fly. I make another about two feet long for using Powerbait.
I also make leaders for stripers. I do not use fluorocarbon, but rather 30 or forty pound mono. I make some leaders for eel fishing. I make some up with a teaser and a snap for a lure. I also make some up with a albie deceiver at the end in case albies come to town.
I buy wooden eggs at craft stores and put long screw eyes in them to use as a very good casting float in shallow surf and rocky conditions. Attached to the back end is a 3 foot piece of mono and a snap so I can change lures quickly.
Since I fish for so many species of fish, I make lures/ leaders of many different sizes. It keeps my busy doing this stuff. I will try to make ten bucktails in a sitting. Usually I’ll do this while watching sports on television. I’d be lying if I said I make leaders all winter. Usually I get so into it, I’m done making them before December 1.
I know I’m obsessed with fishing so I over organize my gear many times throughout the winter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve checked my surf bag just to see if there are pliers and Cocahoes in it. For normal people, this is the time of year to organize your boxes. Take an inventory and decide what gear you need to buy. Each type of fishing I do has specialized equipment. As I’ve said before, you wouldn’t try to catch stripers with a trout rod. So I go through everything and make sure I have clean organized equipment for the upcoming year. I make a list of what I need to buy. I do this not only for fishing gear but also camping supplies.
Change your line
Pretty simple, it is very important to change all your old mono at the beginning of the year. I do not enjoy this chore. I do all my reels in one sitting just to get it over with. I never want to miss a fish because it broke off from weak line.
Although the ice will be around for a while, it can’t last forever (I hope). This is the time of year when cabin fever reaches its peak. Making and organize gear is a great way to kill time when you can’t be outside. Even if you don’t enjoy doing these things, the time and attention to detail will help you catch fish or spend less time packing during the warmer weather. If you get a chance, go to the RISAA show!