Our Outdoors: Let There Be Light

By Nick Simonson

The season of light is upon us, and along with countless homes twinkling in holiday colors as the sun goes down each night, so too does another area of darkness light up – the newly frozen water. Like so many other outdoor activities, ice fishing offers up some incredible opportunities at dawn and dusk and even late into the night for crappies, walleyes and other fish that forage in low light or even in times of complete darkness when a hot bite can materialize out of the depths.  As a result, having the right lighting system both for the individual and for a shack will help make things easier to see during set-up and takedown, travel around a set of hot holes, and in those moments where lure changes need to occur quickly.  Lighting can be as inexpensive as a simple headlamp or light bar or today’s modern portables can be tricked out with ropes of LED bulbs which give off ground effects as cool as a car out of a scene from Tokyo Drift.

Personal Illumination

A headlamp is an essential tool from season to season in the outdoors and is always a welcome gift in someone’s stocking this time of year.  Whether used to work the late night hours during summer fishing outings, or to help with the hump into or out of a deer hunting spot deep in the woods in the pre-dawn and post-dusk darkness, it’s likely an experienced outdoorsman has a stash of headlamps at hand.  With their relatively low price tag, it never hurts to have a few extras laying around, and perhaps an upgrade is in order as brighter new technologies take hold in the industry.  A headlamp is a vital tool that helps illuminate a path to a hardwater fishing spot and allows anglers to see the condition of ice ahead of them and where their holes are, making things a bit safer with a simple beam of light for winter fishing.  Like all gear for hardwater angling, make sure the model can take a beating and can handle the colder temperatures. They make great stocking stuffers, and at worst end up being great safety beacons for these dark winter mornings and evenings when walking the dog.

Shine for Shacks

As the ice fishing shelter market has exploded over the past two decades, so too have the illumination options.  From light bars to sealed ropes of LED bulbs which can be strung and mounted along poles, sled bases or around holes to help see the action, on-ice illumination has advanced to match the times and the way anglers fish on hardwater.  Banks of bulbs in heavy-duty plastic casings absorb the blow of shacks that are quickly opened and closed in those instances where a tip-up pops and provide convenient light options that last season after season.  Check to make sure that the cases are waterproof and sturdy for any options that are going to be mounted on the poles and posts of a portable ice shack. 

For customizable strips of light, inspect those LED ropes to make sure that they are waterproof and have either a sealed power source or are run off a standard 12-volt battery like the one used in most on-ice sonar units.  For a more permanent positioning, utilize zip ties to secure the light ropes to the bars of an ice shack.  For easy adjustment and a more temporary set-up, use Velcro strips that can be quickly removed at the end of a fishing outing.  Those with more mechanical skills than I are able to put together some impressive illumination with all sorts of attachment hacks to light up their shacks just the way they want them. 

In addition to the strings of blinking beacons adorning the eves and window sills of the neighbor’s place (or maybe a little more in those Griswoldesque displays) these lighting options have relegated the propane lantern to the dusty corners of the garage.  With the expansion of new technologies, and obviously better proverbial mousetraps being built season-after-season with more and brighter bulbs being crammed into them, ice anglers have more choices than ever for both their personal and icehouse lighting options. The expansive catalog now available will have many out on the ice well after dark, enjoying more of their time in the long winter nights, lit up with great fishing memories…in our outdoors.  

Featured Photo: A light bar allows for quick deployment with Velcro straps and a hard casing limits impact when the flipover tent goes up or down. Find a lighting option as the ice season kicks off and extend your fishing into the evening. Simonson Photo.

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