What’s new in ice-fishing gear

Ice-fishing really has evolved over the past couple of decades when you consider that we’ve gone from sitting on a bucket using tree branches for strike indicators to having insulated portable shelters, power augers, and high-end graphite rods.
The annual St. Paul Ice Show took place this past weekend and it is the place to see all of the new stuff that becomes available to anglers each season.
It’s a show I’ve attended nearly every year since 2005 and one I always look forward to checking out.
Most of the companies that have products geared towards ice-fishing attend this show because folks come from all over the U.S. Midwest to check out all of the new gear and spend some money.
Several large retail outfits from all over Minnesota attend the show and have hot deals on everything. In all, it’s estimated that more than 65,000 people attend the show each year.
Frabill is one of my fishing sponsors and I spent the weekend in their booth talking fishing with people. They manufacture all kinds of ice-fishing products, including shelters, apparel, rods, and a bunch of accessories.
I was able to walk around the show to check things out and it really is amazing the options we have today for products aimed at making ice-fishing easier for us.
Power augers have been around for many years but they have become much more reliable in recent years, as well as lighter and faster. Today you can find four-stroke, electric, and propane-powered models.
I’m often asked which type of auger I prefer and I’m partial to the classic two-stroke models that have been around for years because I feel like they are the most durable overall (I travel by snowmobile most of the time when I go ice-fishing so my equipment can get roughed up).
Electric augers are great for anglers who have permanent shacks set up because you don’t get any of the nasty gas fumes that you do with gas. You just are limited on the number of holes you can drill in a day.
But they have come a long way and can drill out a bunch of holes before they die.
The big thing in portable shelters now is insulated material designed to hold in more heat than older models. While the insulated models are slightly heavier, they are nice for those super cold days.
They also block out more light, which is fun if you like to look down the hole while you fish for lake trout, which can show up just under the ice some days.
Lake trout live in our clearest lakes so visibility is always good. Watching one swim in and bite your lure just under the ice is a rush!
Several years ago, Frabill let me design an ice-fishing rod for fishing in Canada or anywhere anglers have a shot at catching big fish. It’s been a good seller for them and for 2017, they have re-designed it with a slightly different look and a new handle design.
It’s a really nice rod for lake trout fishing, but I also use it for walleyes and pike. It will be available in Northwestern Ontario in the next week or two.
Of course, there are all kinds of new lures that hit the market every year for every species. More anglers are using soft plastics for ice-fishing, following the trend that anglers in open water have been onto for years now.
Many of these plastics are life-like and scented so some fish go crazy for them. UV colours on jigs and spoons are more vibrant and visible in deep water, and they were hot-sellers at the show.
Do you need the latest and greatest to catch fish under the ice? Absolutely not. But it is fun to have gear to make fishing easier and potentially help us catch more fish.
Now that winter weather finally is starting to show up this week, we should start to see some ice form on area lakes.
We definitely need a bunch of cold weather before conditions are safe, though, so don’t rush out there for a few weeks yet.