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The temperature is going up and down, and the ice fishing becomes challenging. A number of area lakes have a lot of snow cover over the ice and that creates slush on top of the ice and makes it very difficult walking, what some call “heart attack” walking snow.

Those going out should exercise caution and wear really good boots. It’s very wet under the snow, with as much as 2 inches to 3 inches of wet slush.

Area lakes are starting to produce some very nice catches of multiple species. Bangs Lake has been producing really good catches of bluegill and northern pike; Wonder Lake in McHenry was producing some nice bluegills in the weeds at 10 feet to 12 feet of water, and Montrose Harbor reports nice catches of perch and some really sweet brown trout being caught on the bottom of the harbor.

This is my time of year to strip line off of all my reels, – about half of the line, maybe 50-60 yards – in preparation for this coming year’s fishing.

There are two reasons for putting on new line each year: 1) The old line will dry out and become less supple creating potential bad spot where the line can break, and 2) when the line has been on the reel for many months it will get a memory set in it that causes poor reel performance and reduced cast ability.

One of the best ways to load up a reel is first wind on 40 to 50 feet of braided line and tie the two lines together with a blood knot (see www.animatedknots.com) then attach 10 to 20 feet of fluorocarbon line to the braided line again with a blood knot. This gives a strong, very sensitive line combination that is virtually invisible under water.

Now is a good time to shop for line, finding it on sale almost everywhere with a good selection of line strength available. Don’t rush putting the line on, probably not until spring. This is a great time to practice those knots.

Until next time…keep a tight line.