The water is still hard and ice-fishing is good, but now is the time to take out all your open water gear and do some maintenance and organizing. You could get by without a gear inspection, but come July you’ll hate yourself for the condition of your tackle and its containers. IEventually, we all have to deal with tangled leaders, rusty spoons, broken hooks and some unidentifiable plastic goo that used to be jig bodies, but is now chemically attached to a number of your lure trays.

While snow is still on the ground, take out all your rods and inspect them for loose guides and plugged or rusty ferrules. Then put them away as the real mess is about to take place. Most of us have at least a few lure and miscellaneous containers. Often they are species-oriented, ie: “pike box”, “trout box,” etc. Unless you are super meticulous, there will be some confusion in these containers, with lures in the wrong box.

A good way to handle this situation is to find a large flat surface and empty the tackle containers. This might have to be done in stages if you have a lot of equipment. This is very challenging in a household with young children as the gear may have to be laid out for a few days to complete the task. Typically one of your first thoughts will be, “why do I have so much stuff?” Now is your chance to pare down the total amount, though none of us are very good at that.

First of all, move anything that should be in one of the other containers, then inspect the remaining bits and pieces. This is when you cull the broken hooks, swivels, leaders and any rusty or melted (plastic) items. If you are really serious, now is when you discard any gear that you no longer have any faith in, or items that you now realize were poor choices to start with. None of this is easy and that’s why we usually put it off.

While the tackle containers are empty, you can fill the laundry tub with warm soapy/detergent water and soak and wash all the containers until they look like new. The nylon shoulder bags that we fill with lure trays can also be washed or just soaked and rinsed to make them look better.

Repeat this procedure with each of your tackle/gear containers and then check/repair/clean your waders, fishing vest, rain suit and landing net. This is a very positive activity at this time of the year and you will be super-satisfied when the ice goes out and your gear is ready like it’s never been before.

We are all motivated to buy more gear, especially the latest “wonder-lure.” It’s tough, but important when you are in the fishing tackle aisles at the big box stores, to accept that all those lures and gizmos were created to catch you as well as the fish.