It’s that time of year! The lakes are thawing out, fishing seasons are closing, and opportunities are becoming more and more limited for all the anglers across our great region. This winter had its ups and downs weather wise but we witnessed some incredible catches all across Northeastern Ontario.
There are many different ways to stay busy during the offseason to ensure that you’re prepared for the upcoming fishing season. Some areas that I tend to focus on are boat maintenance, tackle organization and shopping, attending outdoors shows, wrapping up my ice fishing season, and preparing my gear for summer storage. Last but not least is my personal favourite – preparing for the upcoming season with desktop reviews and trip planning to all of the excellent lakes, lodges, and cities throughout Northeastern Ontario!
Boat maintenance is likely the most important part of the offseason and it can dictate how your fishing season will end up. Would you rather diagnose a potential fishing ending problem in the offseason or react to it while being potentially stranded on the water? Some key items to review in the spring include but are not limited to:
- Trailer and navigation lighting
- Engine fluid levels and spark plugs
- Bottom end oil and impeller replacement
- Prop for chips and dents
- Seals and rub rails for cracking or loosening
- All bolts on mounted items (engine, trolling motor, shallow water anchors, electronics, navigation, etc.)
If you’re unsure or not confident in doing this work on your own bring it to one of the great dealerships or small engine mechanics near you. This is one area that you won’t regret spending the time on.
Tackle organization & shopping
Guilty as charged for going overboard on this annually as new baits are being released and reviews are posted from the year past. This gets my mind going and I complete a thorough review of all my current tackle for existing inventory and what I “need” for the upcoming season. Check your boxes for those missing baits that were lost in the previous season, or make a wish list for items you feel will give you a better chance at success in the coming year. Another good idea is to keep an eye out for any rusted tackle as this can be as simple as wiping off the rust and sharpening or replacing the hooks all together.
Keeping your tackle organized makes you a more efficient angler on and off the water. Take a look through your tackle boxes and sort baits by types rather then just having them all thrown into a pile or rubbing against one another at the bottom of your box.
Spring time is quickly approaching and some of my favourites baits include standards lead jigs and worm harnesses for targeting walleye along with jerkbaits and lipless crankbaits for smallmouth bass. An angler can never go wrong with a high-quality spinner bait or larger jerk baits for the predatory northern pike, and big bucktails are a great option for the musky angler.
Ice fishing gear
Many people are in between seasons right now and your ice gear may be still piled up in your sleigh out in the garage or in a corner making a mess in one of your rooms. Make sure to dry out all your baits, check rods and reels for any damage, and review all electronics for any damage or corrosion. These are all items to be mindful of and can be sorted out through the months ahead prior to next season.
Fishing preparation from your Desktop
This takes up a lot of my time in the winter months as I prepare for the season ahead whether it be tournaments, thoughts of exploring a new lake, or taking a fishing trip to one of the region’s excellent lodges.
Fish OnLine, Navionics Webapp, and Google Earth are all great resources to utilize while preparing for the upcoming season. Fish OnLine can be used to key in on species specific lakes, find those close to home and utilize their incredible litho imagery feature. The Navionics Webapp provides lake contours to many lakes across the province and within the northeastern region.
This is one of my favourite ways to spend time in the slower months. I’ll review lakes and their structure highlighting key areas with long underwater points, steep breaks, main lake humps and flats along with potential spawning areas and migration routes. I can do this for hours and never get bored. For another visual reference, I’ll use Google Earth and their previous collections of satellite imagery to confirm what I’m seeing on Navionics or visually identify key areas on lakes where contours are not available. It’s neat to see how a lake looks during different seasons and water levels throughout the various collections of online imagery.
I hope the above-mentioned tasks will help to rid you of your boredom over the next few months and allows you to be prepared for the upcoming season ahead! I’ve already started my shopping cart and began packing up my ice fishing gear with high hopes and aspirations for the open water season. Get busy in the off season and you’ll reap the benefits all season long.