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If you live far enough north that lakes or rivers freeze over winter, it makes sense to fish all winter long when the bounty is available through the ice. While you can go out on the ice without a shelter and fish on a fair day, you will get more fishing days in and be more comfortable while doing it if you have an ice-fishing shelter.
It’s true that you can purchase many ice huts and tents intended for ice-fishing, but for real flexibility you should consider designing a custom shelter that precisely meets your needs.
In reality, you can use almost anything as an ice-fishing shelter if it keeps you warm and meets local building codes. Innovative sportsmen have used recycled trailers, sheds, plastic outbuildings, large crates, and their own construction to create a variety of shelters that do the trick. You don’t need to overthink your ice-fishing shelter. Look around at local classifieds or in your own backyard to find a structure or trailer that you can repurpose. If you can use some repurposed materials, you can quickly and easily construct something that will keep you very comfortable.
There are a few things to keep in mind when deciding what will work best for you:
You will want to have room in the walls of your shelter to add some kind of insulation, maybe foam, and to properly insulate any doors or openings. Most ice-fishing shelters also have a stove or other heat source; if you have room in yours, you may want to consider installing a chimney and stove to keep the shelter toasty and provide you with a cooking surface. Wood stoves are common, since propane can create more hazards if not properly ventilated. However, either stove type will need to be used with caution. Locate your heat source away from your exit, in case of fire.
There are many tiny fishing houses out there, and indeed there is some appeal to the solitude of fishing alone in the peace and stillness of winter. Still, most shelters will accommodate at least one guest. Fold-up benches and tables are nice if you can build them in to your shelter. When you’re alone, you can just fold them away.
If you’re building your shelter, the sky is the limit with how much you can spend on materials, with everything from expensive finishings to gadgetry available on the market. At the lowest end of the cost spectrum, vinyl on a PVC frame will keep you from the wind, but it won’t keep you very warm. For something middle-of-the-road, try plywood sheets, 2x4s, foam insulation and shrink wrap: snug and cheap.
How will you move your shelter on to the ice? If you are repurposing a trailer, you’re ahead of the game because you’ve got wheels. This gives you a lot of flexibility, since you can easily tow your shelter from place to place to find fish or try a new lake. If your structure doesn’t have wheels, you can build a skid for it, or else mount it with wheels or skis to move it around the ice. You can even construct a shelter with very light materials and move it from place to place; this is much more labor-intensive, but might be more affordable if you have the materials on hand. No matter what, you will need to consider what will fit in your vehicle and plan accordingly; as a last resort, you can build on the ice, but make sure you pick a good spot, because you’ll be stuck there.
You can even construct a shelter with very light materials and move it from place to place; this is much more labor-intensive, but might be more affordable if you have the materials on hand. No matter what, you will need to consider what will fit in your vehicle and plan accordingly; as a last resort, you can build on the ice, but make sure you pick a good spot, because you’ll be stuck there.
Fishing Holes and Fittings
Don’t neglect to consider the logistics of how you are going to fish in your shelter. You’re not just going out on the ice to sit comfortably with a book! Depending on the size of your floor, you may have 1 – 10 holes cut into it and through the ice. Ensure that you have secure covers for these holes to make sure no one steps through them when you’re not fishing.
Other matters to plan for include shelves for drying wet gear, hooks for storing rods when not in use, coolers for fish, and possibly even a cleaning station. Some anglers install entertainment in their ice-fishing huts, such as televisions or games tables; don’t do it at the cost of your fishing.
Once you’ve got something practical and workable, don’t be afraid to add a little flair. There is real creativity out on the ice, with everything from whale-shaped ice shelters to geodesic domes to mural painting expressing the wit and personality of the designer. You may even catch more fish!
No matter what, an alert angler is better at noticing his catches. It’s worth the effort to make a place where you won’t be fighting the cold.
What advice would you add on making an ice-fishing shelter? Share your tips in the section below: