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Fishing Lines: Prepare for your travels across a frozen lake

We have reached the time of our winter now where traveling on the ice if you are going off plowed roads can be very challenging. Under the deep snow are still some hard packed drifts. When traveling on the ice in a vehicle it is always important to have a few basic items along "just in case." For many experienced ice anglers, they will always have these items along. It is all basic common sense, but it is amazing how many times, even though we no better, we don't follow through.

When you travel on the ice, have proper weather gear with you, including boots, gloves, hat, and a good winter coat. It is easy to just assume you are going from the warm truck to the warm fish house, so you jump in and head out for a nice evening of fishing. Even when the temperatures seem mild as far as our winter weather, wind can be a significant problem for you if you need to leave the vehicle. Wind can rob the body of heat in a hurry. Hands, ears, and feet can be very susceptible to frostbite in severe cold or high wind conditions. It doesn't take up much room or time to throw your gear in the rig! Make sure everyone has proper gear, and especially the kids. The problem is, problems can occur when we least expect, and many have been caught in this lack of preparedness.

Problems like the vehicle not starting, wind drifting snow over plowed roads and getting stranded, getting caught in a white out and getting off trail and stuck, or sliding off the trail and getting the vehicle hung up. Almost anyone that has spent time on the ice has had to encounter a challenging situation. Even though this has happened, it is amazing how many are still unprepared for the next difficult situation. It is also common sense to have a shovel (or two), a tow rope, and jumper cables.

In this day and age it seems everyone has a cell phone and having your phone with you could be a lifesaver. The good news is that ice anglers "get" the importance of helping someone out on the ice if they are in trouble, and someone on the ice will always be prepared with the proper gear to help out. 

If you are heading out on some of the large lakes such as Lake of the Woods, Leech, Winni, Mille Lacs, or Devils, it is a good idea -- no -- a great idea to have GPS with you. For those of you with smart phones, you always have the benefit of having GPS with you as long as you have your phone along.

My son Jake even downloaded a lake mapping application to his smart phone for $5. He can use his smart phone to navigate, lake mapping for location/depth, and save fishing locations with coordinates on his smart phone. It looks to me like the "smart phone" will soon replace the handheld GPS units. 

With these phones you can get weather updates, check fishing reports, and call or text other anglers on the ice to help figure out what is happening with the bite, and take pictures of the fish also. For those that are into the whole "Facebook" or "Twitter" thing, you can update while you are out on your adventure -- very cool -- but not for me. This stubborn (maybe more cheap) son of a gun, will probably be upgrading to one of these types of phones in the next year. I see how these have now become part of the new equipment available to improve our fishing experiences.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)