December 16, 2012

Getting ready for winter fun

By Dan Ladd

---- — Weather forecast models for the forthcoming winter have once again called for warmer-than-average temperatures.

Who knows if that will be the case or not. The calendar says that winter is coming Friday, Dec. 21. That means I’ll be looking at my winter outdoor recreational gear and getting it ready.

Preparation has its advantages. One being that you find out what you don’t have and therefore will need for your pursuits. It’s always much better to take this route than the one where you don’t realize you need something until, well, you need it.

Preparation also equates to confidence. It’s nice knowing that when the snow falls or the lake freezes you can be ready to ski, ice fish or whatever it is you do on a whim because you had your gear ready. You just have to grab it and go. If you’ve got the time to get things in order, then by all means, do so.

We’ll begin with machinery. Perhaps you are a snowmobiler or someone who uses either a snowmobile or ATV for ice fishing. My buddy Scott Sanderspree is a vintage snowmobile enthusiast and a snowmobile- and ATV-salesman.

“First and foremost the fuel needs to be checked to see if it is any good,” he said. “The amount of ethanol in today’s fuel, which in many cases is greater than the 10-percent you see stated on the pumps, causes the fuel to separate into two layers when the machine has sat for a period of time. One being gas and the other being ethanol mixed with water.”

“Moisture in the air or condensation in the tank will bond to the ethanol alcohol and not with the gas,” Sanderspree continued. “This allows for two distinct layers that can cause many problems for a combustion engine. First the water will sit in the carburetor bowl and turn green like algae and clog the fuel passageways causing a no-start or poor running condition. You must be proactive and treat the fuel prior to storage or remove it and start out with fresh fuel. Carburetors in many cases need to be cleaned to remove this debris.”

On snowmobiles, Sanderspree suggests that you check your track and chain tension and adjust as necessary. Inspect oil pumps, skis and especially batteries on all machinery.

“Batteries must be recharged as some machines run on DC power,” he said. “And, with a low battery they will not run as they normally should. The complete machine should be inspected for anything that looks out of the ordinary.”

Sanderspree’s suggestions should serve as a reminder to all of us to service any other machinery we own such as a snowblower and especially our ice augers. Change things like the oil and spark plugs and take a look at any wear and tear, including the transmission fluid. You want this stuff to run when you need it to.

Speaking of ice fishing, finding out what I have and don’t have is usually the first order of business for my ice fishing gear. There’s a lot of little stuff involved here like swivels, bobbers, sounders and hooks that find their way deep into my numerous pockets and usually need to be dug out. Quite often the end result is a trip to the tackle shop to replace such items.

Some time after deer season and before or during the holidays, I usually crank up the wood stove in my cellar, put on a football game and empty my entire ice fishing pack basket on the floor and go through my stuff. Jig rods are at the top of the list and I usually put new line on them. Sometimes I switch reels between my warm weather rods and my jigging rods. A drop of oil on the reel gears never hurts.

Then it’s on to the tip-ups, which I primarily use for lake trout fishing. Many anglers I know who are much more serious than myself have a set of tip-ups for every species that they fish for and rig their tip-ups appropriately. New swivels, hooks and leader line are usually put on my tip-ups to start the season and are often replaced somewhere along the way, usually courtesy of a bad knot on my part or a strong fish.

There’s also all that “other” stuff to consider with ice fishing like shanties, auger blades, sleds and electronics.

Lastly, I make sure the bottom isn’t going to drop out of my pack basket and that my bait buckets are clean and ready to go.

Then it’s time to wait for ice.

Enjoy the holiday season and use some spare time to prepare for winter’s fun days ahead.

Dan Ladd is the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks,” outdoors editor for the Glens Falls Chronicle, columnist for Outdoors Magazine and contributor to New York Outdoor News. Contact him at