It's Fishin' Holers second-favorite time of year (anytime we are out fishing is, of course, our first).
When the gifts pile up under the Christmas tree and anticipation of the angling year that lies ahead builds.
And while there's no questioning that Santa knows everything and has our best intentions at heart, sometimes he needs a nudge in the right direction.
– Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against gasoline powered ice augers, which, when they came out many decades ago were a giant leap forward from the old-school "armstrong" variety - allowing hard water anglers to drill multiple holes without turning the exercise into a trip to the gym.
Especially during our long western winters where the ice thickness can become excessive toward the end of February.
But two-stroke motors can be temperamental and noisy. Plus there's always the worry that some gas might leak from the tank during transportation.
The ION Ice Auger – which promises "all you hear is the sound of ice shredding" – resolves much of that unease.
Its much-improved 40 volt lithium battery generates a powerful torque allowing the ice fisher to drill up to 1,600 inches of hole before a recharge and comes in a selection of bore diameters up to 10 inches. All in relative silence. The auger reverses with the flick of a switch, allowing cuttings to be moved away from the bit, greatly reducing the possibility of jams. And because the electric motor emits zero fumes it's ideal for use in permanent ice shelters.
– Here's a great way to be loud and proud about your Western Canadian professional sports team.
And catch a lot of fish while doing it.
Pelican Lures out of Winnipeg, Manitoba offers a selection of spoons decked out in National Hockey League (NHL) and Canadian Football League (CFL) team logos.
The lures come armed with top-of-the-line Eagle Claw treble hooks and are subjected to Pelican's state-of-the-art heat transfer process which imbeds your team's digital image onto the nickel plated surface. Rendering the lure extremely fade resistant.
In time if it begins to lose its lustre a quick bake in a 400C oven will restore its shine to as good as new.
A great stocking stuffer idea for the angler sports-fan in the family.
– Being a responsible and ethical angler - especially in these days of aggressive fisheries management practices by government conservation agencies and reduced harvest opportunities - is to limit what you catch and savour all you keep.
And nothing turns a successful day on the water into a delicious celebratory meal at home or around the campfire than a good knife.
Bubba Blades has a selection of filleting knives in various blade lengths and flexes that makes transforming a stringer of fish into a tasty fish fry "a piece of cake."
The knives come in Bubba's signature textured no-slip handle and the stainless steel blade comes with an exclusive Teflon coating which makes removing the flesh from the bones a "whole new feel."
Each knife is honed to a razor sharpness at the factory and includes a synthetic custom sheath and safety guard. It's a Christmas gift to fry for.
– Demystifying the mysteries of fly fishing can appear to be a steep learning curve for the rookie angler. Where to start?
Well the soundest advice I can give is to get yourself rigged with a quality – but affordable - rod and reel combo.
The Orvis Company from Manchester, Vermont, has been synonymous with the fly-fishing business since 1856, and offers its "all around" Encounter Series in various lengths and line weights.
Combined with a large-arbour reel, allowing for fast and efficient line pick-up and matched with a weight-forward floating fly line.
Which Orvis describes as "the perfect first rod for any fly angler."
And while it is built for the rigours of the "hardcore " angler, it is offered at a price point with "frugality in mind."
It also comes with Orvis CEO Perk Perkins' personal motto that: "We do not sell what we ourselves would not be proud to own or give."
– They say one of the leading causes of death among tropical fishing guides – who earn their living poling flats boats under an unrelenting southern sun – is melanoma.
Over exposure to harsh sunlight is no laughing matter.
One way to beat the heat and ward off the risks of skin damage is a Buff.
This unique piece of outdoor clothing was originally designed for Spanish motorbike riders but now has been taken up with enthusiasm by the angling community. The polyester microfibre sun protection can be worn around the neck in a dozen different configurations and particularly comes into its own on bright, sunny days or while running to a new angling location in a boat.
It's available in a variety of designs including several fish variety images by renowned artist Derek DeYoung.
– One of the unfortunate down-sides of ice angling is ice. Plus the snow and the cold, cold weather generally.
No matter how you layer-up the frigid air will inevitably creep into your ice-angling structure and make your day on the ice uncomfortable.
A Mr. Heater propane fueled radiant heater is a great way to beat the cold and extend your stay on the ice surface exponentially.
The heaters come in a variety of configurations including a compact model that fits over a 1 pound propane bottle – ideal for one-person ice tents. The units can be adapted to larger propane sources and come with an easy to operate ignition system and vital safety features like an oxygen depletion sensor and an accidental tip-over shut-off. Let there be heat.
– While bank angling has its rewards, nothing gets you to good fishing better than a boat.
Especially when weekend warriors crowd the access points or the marshy shorelines of many western waterbodies make fishing on foot impossible and often dangerous.
The solution, of course, is a fishing boat.
But a large, rigid watercraft can present its own set of challenges.
A soft-sided inflatable like a raft, float tube or pontoon offers a compatible compromise.
Outcast Sporting Gear presents a series of pontoon boats in its Fish Cat series which can be assembled quickly and later stowed away in a compact package. The strong frames and durable pontoon bladders give waterborne anglers a greater sense of safety while allowing them to reach a far-greater range of fish-holding waters.
The pontoons – which range from guide-model doubles to compact single-angler craft - come with anchor systems and storage decks and paniers.
And can be equipped with sonar, GPS systems and electric motors to extend the anglers reach and sub-surface knowledge greatly.
- No matter how much you pry and probe during the big pre-Christmas build-up it's sometimes still hard to know what your loved one really wants.
Especially with a sport so complex, technical and personal as angling.
And the last thing you want to see on that magic morning when the gifts are opened is a disappointed face.
A great way to beat the odds of getting it wrong and avoiding the unwanted anxiety of making a return is to let the anglers in the family make their own choice.
And give them a gift certificate in a denomination that feels right.
It also allows them to troll the post-holiday sales where they can get an even bigger bang for your outdoors buck. That's called win-win-win.