Last week, I gave the total statewide numbers for Alaska Hunter Education classes in 2019. I didn’t have the Valley-specific numbers until after my deadline to turn in the column, but I have them now! So, to finish the discussion, here they are. Hunter Education classes in the Valley were basic: 27; bowhunter: 6; muzzleloading: 2; and crossbow: 2. This gives a total of 37 classes. Students certified were basic: 375; bowhunter: 78; muzzleloading: 9; and crossbow: 13; for a total of 475 students.
To put these numbers in perspective, the Valley had 18 percent of the basic classes; 13 percent of the bowhunter; 11 percent of the muzzleloading; and 15 percent of the crossbow classes statewide. The percentage of total classes was 12. Percentages of students for the Valley were basic: 18; bowhunter: 17; muzzleloading: 12; and 21 for crossbows.
Looking at numbers is usually boring unless you have an interest in the topic. I find interesting the fact that total classes in the Valley aren’t a higher percentage of the statewide total, given the Valley’s population. I can only guess that lots of Valley folks who commute to Anchorage opt to take their classes in Anchorage.
On another note, the Wasilla Hockey Boosters Club annual gun show will be held at Wasilla High School next weekend, Jan. 18-19. This is usually one of the larger gun shows in the area and is generally well attended. Attendance is probably helped by the fact this is the first gun show of the year and gives folks an excuse to get out of the house during this “dead of winter” season.
I haven’t been icefishing yet, but I hope to soon (I know, I’m a temperature whimp!) In lieu of actually doing it, I’ve been looking at icefishing gear available in catalogs and online and reading some articles with tips on what to have along on the trip. Minimalists wouldn’t consider most this stuff, but if you’re going for the day, or longer, having a lot of this stuff could prove lifesaving.
Traveling to your fishing spot will obviously involve a vehicle of some sort: highway, ATV, or snowmachine. Having a tow-behind sled for the ATV or snowmachine helps haul the gear. A power auger will make drilling holes much faster. A set of five-gallon buckets holds rods, reels, tackle, and other assorted small gear, like tip-ups, in the sled. Having a shelter and propane heater along will greatly increase your comfort level on a really cold day. A shovel to clear snow around your fishing hole helps too.
Many of the newer ice shelters are designed to work with ice anchors. Having a gadget along to set your anchors in the ice through holes in the shelter apron using a cordless drill is very handy. I’m going to look at my shelter and possibly make some additional tie-downs to hold the sides on a windy day. Many folks use a turned-over bucket as a seat, but I have a chair designed for sitting in a blind that I like to use, if I can carry it in the sled.
Warm clothing and footgear are a given. Hand warmers are nice too. It’s a good idea to have ice creepers fitted to your boots to aid in traction. A set of those ice pick gadgets to help you pull yourself out of the water in case you break through can be lifesavers. A tip I read suggested carrying a length of line to use in the event you need to help someone who broke through the ice get out.
I’ve wanted a set of floatation icefishing outerwear for a few years, but I couldn’t justify the cost based on the number of trips I make. I recently ordered a lower-priced set on sale. This set doesn’t have the extra floatation, but I’m figuring I can wear a suspender style PFD over the top of the jacket to address that need.
Over the years, watching sales, I’ve purchased a flasher sonar unit and a small-screened underwater TV to help in determining water depths and fish locations. I need to charge the batteries for these units to ready them for upcoming use.
I also have a spear and a couple of decoys to use while spearing for pike. I speared a pike years ago and it would be fun to try it again, once the cold snap breaks. We’ll see.
That’s a reasonably inclusive list of icefishing gear. Take what you need for your trip.