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March 02. 2013 1:46AM

Dick Pinney's Guidelines: The right ice fishing sled is very important

In the last few years we've gone from lugging enough equipment out onto the ice for a dozen ice fishermen to dragging on our special sled a minimum of gear. Instead of the huge and heavy power ice auger with a 10-inch cut, we've gone to a hand auger with a five-inch blade.

The hand auger is a thing of beauty. It doesn't take up much room in my vehicle, doesn't stink of gasoline nor does it need any. Instead of pulling a hand starter until you're blue in the face to get a power auger going, you only get a bit red in the face by drilling your hole by hand. My method depends on two people, one of them preferably a stout lad with big muscles, which in my instance is my grandson, Nate, a power lifter and ex-semi pro football player. With him on one side and me on the other side, by one pushing and one pulling that little auger will just about beat any power auger around.

We suppose there's an argument about what happens if you catch a fish that is too large to bring up through the five inch hole. My answer is if there are fish that big in the places we fish we'd better bring a firearm to protect ourselves. It takes a huge fish not to be able to come up through a five inch hole. The trick is to gently lead the fish's head into the hole and with a little help from the fish, let it swim up until you can grab its head.

My sled itself is also a thing of beauty. It is completely enclosed at just the right height to sit on its padded bench seat, which when lifted gives access to a huge storage compartment that easily hold my tip-ups, several jigging rods, an ice skimmer, my lunch and my two flasks of "go juice," as well as my lunch and thermos. In the front of the sled is a rounded indentation that a bait bucket just fits into perfectly that is anchored in place with a bungee cord. And we have a tow rope on front and back, in case someone in our party has an ATV or snowmobile, it can be towed behind their sled in kind of a tandem fashion.

Around the side of my special ice fishing sled are four metal fixtures or mounts that four steel pipes fit into and inside is a specially made wind breaker of black, durable fabric that just slips over the poles and provides a real warm and comfy refuge from the weather. But if you haven't done your homework and secured this rig to the ice by putting down an ice anchor, a good wind can send you sailing down the ice, an experience that only needs to happen once to impress you about the importance of ice anchoring. But that one time was great for laughs and banter among the audience that seemed to appreciate a little break in the lackluster action that we were seeing. The worst part was when we fell off the sled when it hit an ice ridge and some younger men had to chase my precious little ice fishing machine down for me.

And speaking of young men, some of the real smart people that we ice fish with, especially my nephew Jim, have taken the safety of ice-creepers to a higher level. Using the small tungsten screws which are used in studding snowmobile tracks, Jim and some of his friends mount these small screw-type studs directly to the soles of their winter boots. The amount of traction this provides on slippery ice is incredible and we're told that traction is pretty necessary when your lady at home catches you crossing her hardwood floors with these studded boots. Good to take them off outside, we'd imagine.

Dressing for a cold day out on the ice has taken on some importance for us, as being on a blood thinning prescription has found new levels of being frozen for us. One of the tricks we've found has been the use of cotton garments. Yup, we said cotton. It's well known among outdoors professionals that "cotton kills" if used next to your skin. That's because it will absorb moisture and moisture, when evaporating, causes refrigeration.

The key here is to wear some kind of non-natural fabric next to your skin that will pass the moisture out to your next layer of cotton, which will prevent the evaporation coming off your skin. Our astronauts use space suits that use this technology with alternating layers of some kind of plastic weave with layers of good old cotton. Try it, you'll love it.

And if you see a fat guy all bundled up flying across the ice on a little yellow sled, you'll know that my ice anchors were not properly set.

Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.


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