Can I get by without a power auger? Is it okay to just use my hand auger all winter?
Short answer, yes you can, but... My freshman year of college, I spent with an old hand me down hand auger with dull blades. I did plenty of ice fishing, but it was always a chore to drill 10-15 holes by hand. Sure, you could only drill two holes and sit there and fish like they did in the old times, but I am a rambling man and like to cover as much water as possible. To make a long story short, after drilling an entire ice season with a hand auger through what seemed like 8 feet of ice at times, I had the strongest arms ever. Not sure exactly how being able to spin my arms in a circle fast would benefit me in anything other than using a hand auger, but damn was I good at it. Would I do it again? Hell no, I was young, dumb, proud, and poor. In today's world, you can go on Craigslist and find a used auger for under $150. If you can't swing that, borrow an auger from a buddy.
One thing I will say is how generous most fishermen are. I can't even begin to count how many times I was out ice fishing and would have a guy come over and offer to drill me a couple holes with his gas auger after seeing me struggle through 30” of ice with an antique Mora hand auger with dull blades. To this day, I still try to pay that forward when I see someone else out struggling with a hand auger.
So what's the deal with different ice rods? I just have a light one and a heavy one.
This is truly a question from someone who has not used a good custom rod in their lifetime. You may as well ask a car guy what the difference is between his Ferrari and your Ford Taurus, c'mon, they are both cars right? And if you have never driven a Ferrari, you may not know what you are missing. Put a hand built ice rod with titanium guides that is designed for the exact species and tackle you are using in your hands and you will immediately see what all the fuss is about.
Some custom rods, however, are more aboot looks. I don't see what adding excess weight in the form of butt wraps, marbling, or wood handles really does other than doubling or tripling the weight and ruining the sensitivity. All of my ice rods now are custom built pieces, and just like a good sports car, their performance is second to none. If you somehow can't see yourself spending more than $20 for an ice rod, find someone who has some customs and go fish with them, you will understand the difference pretty quickly
If a coworker brings you to his secret spot, and it's good, how long do you have to wait to go without him?
Never! This is one rule of the fishing code that should never be broken. If someone finally takes you out to their spot, after months of you begging and promising never to tell someone, you take it to your grave. There are two ways around this rule: 1. You ask permission to go fish it when your buddy can't go with. Keep in mind that if you are granted permission in this instance, you are not allowed to take any company. Everybody always wants to bring a friend or two, and while you may be trusted to keep a secret, you friend might tell a guy from work who then goes out, catches one 12” crappie and then brags about the great spot he found on facebook to his 1500 closest friends. Call your friend or ask face to face, this isn't a time for texting. It is like the texting rule for dating. If I remember correctly, (which I might not, as I am married now and have only vague recollections of things like that) breakups after 3 dates have to be by phone call or face to face. Well, for fishing spots, the rule is one time. Special fishing spots hold a place in an angler's heart, my own mother doesn't even know of any of mine (never mind that she wouldn't care either). If you are granted permission to fish it on your own, there are a couple provisions: you can't invite someone to go with you, and you can't brag about it being your spot. 2. Your buddy dies. If your friend dies in some horrific accident before their time (wow, this blog took a dark turn), this spot is yours. This becomes a spot you can reminisce about that person and catch a ton of fish without having to do the work to find this spot yourself.
Other than these two provisions, you have no right to fish this spot. If everyone obeyed these simple rules, great fishing would only come to those who worked hard to find it or those who seemingly walk around on the ice with a horseshoe up their ass.
When hitting Mille Lacs/LOW/Winnie, how much good info can you actually get from resort owners?
Surprisingly, a lot. Especially if you have just purchased a road pass, some bait, and a few jigs from whomever is working. When you are there spending money, as opposed to calling, they are way more free with information. They field tons of calls every day from people asking everything under the sun, that may or may not make the trip up and fish with them. I have heard about some of their more ridiculous calls, including one where someone asked a guide where they planned to put the pressure ridge that winter. Yes, an adult had that actual thought pop into their head, and called to ask. To make a long story short, the better you do when you are fishing out of their resort, the more likely you are to come back and spend more money with them.
That isn't to say that calling ahead is a bad idea. It can be helpful especially early and late in the season to see what kind of vehicles they are allowing out or if they have a certain bait you think you might need. Just don't expect them to give you GPS coordinates of where the walleyes and perch are biting while you are calling from 150 miles away.
Portable fish house, night fishing, what's your go to light set up? I've done both home made and store bought.
Oh boy, I have tried just aboot everything when it comes to lighting the fish house. I remember once in college, some buddies of mine were even trying to convince me that candles were the answer. They would stick a candle into the slush pile at the edge of their hole that would provide just enough light to see their bobbers. Of course, these same goofballs also told people that they had to use vanilla scented candles for crappies, and evergreen scented ones for walleyes. I am more convinced their theories were Keystone Light fueled as opposed to actual results.
Now when I go out I have a pretty simple setup. I have a strip of LEDs that are attached to a ceiling post and a headlamp on my head. LEDs are pretty easy to rig up with a switch, and don't use much battery life. There are even battery boxes that you can mount to the tub of your fish house if you don't want to have to hook the lights up to your flasher. The strip of lights I currently use I got from some vendor at the Blaine Ice Show one year. I went with amber lights and I highly recommend them over the harsh icy blue ones that look like they came from Area 51. I don't plan to conduct any alien autopsies out on the ice, so the dimmer lights are nice. If you need more direct/brighter light to retie a jig, use the headlamp.
With all the recent technological advances in ice fishing, what's the one thing you can never leave home without?
A fishing license. You can get a pretty hefty fine for not having it with you. They even have this cool machine at all the bait shops where they just swipe your driver's license and it spits one out for you!
Seriously though, I can't fish without my Marcum anymore. I used to do it all the time before I could afford my own flasher, but after having used one for over a decade, I would sooner pack up and head home than fish without one. There is a lot of cool new stuff being released every year for ice fishing. I have an indicator on my tip-up that alerts my phone when the flag goes up. I have GPS mapping on a variety of different platforms, underwater cameras complete with internal DVRs and remote controlled panners, and I would still gladly go fishing without a fishing rod rather than head out on a lake without a flasher.
I once drove 45 miles to a lake and realized my LX-7 was still sitting in my bedroom on the charger (yes, my Marcum stays in the bedroom, it's earned the right), only to turn around and drive back home to get it before I even drilled a hole. If I forgot to charge my battery and the sonar went dead in the middle of the most epic bite I have ever experienced, I am either packing up and heading home or waiting in the truck for it to charge from the cigarette lighter charger. I seriously don't know how anyone caught fish before flashers were popular, although back then it was probably more aboot getting away from the wife and drinking copious amounts of Snowshoe Grog (which you have to do to keep the snow snakes away).