Ice fishing is a rewarding sport, but to do it correctly, you’ll need an ice shanty.
These structures allow you to warm up and store your gear.
So in this blog, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about ice shanties.
Let’s get started.
1. What is an ice shanty?
An ice shanty is a portable shed placed on a frozen lake to provide shelter during ice fishing.
It may be as small and cheap as a plastic tarp draped over a frame of two-by-fours.
It could also be as expensive as a small cabin with heat, bunks, electricity, and cooking facilities.
If an ice shanty is a more expensive and durable house, then it may be left on a lake for the duration of the ice fishing season.
However, this can sometimes cause problems if there are thawing and re-freezing episodes, which damage the shanty.
If the ice shanty is a lighter/cheaper version, then it can be collapsed into a packaged and moved from lake to lake during the season.
Because there can be issues with ice shanties, northern communities have developed bodies of law about the operation of ice shanties.
Often, they have dates that the ice shanties must be removed even if the ice is still able to hold them to prevent any issues, accidents, or injuries.
2. What are other names for an ice shanty?
An ice shanty may be known by any of these other names:
We may use these other names interchangeably throughout this blog.
When we do, know that we’re still referring to an ice shanty!
3. What is an ice shanty made from?
Ice shanties are often made from heavy materials, such as wood or metal.
However, simpler ones can be made from lightweight materials such as vinyl, canvas, and denier fabric.
As the ice shanty’s primary purpose is to shelter fishermen during the winter while fishing, you can understand how a heavy material is more effective than a lighter material.
Some ice shanties will be constructed like small houses.
They’ll include everything from stoves, lighting, heating/AC, bunks, satellite TV, and more!
Others are much more makeshift and less homey.
Your ice shanty can be whatever you envision it.
4. Where can you see an ice shanty before you buy one?
Are you interested in seeing an ice shanty in action before you purchase one for your own use?
States like Wisconsin and Minnesota have hotels, bed and breakfasts, and resorts that own ice shanties that their guests can use.
They’ll do all the work while you focus on ice fishing.
Not only is this a great way to see how an ice shanty works, but it’s also an ideal way to fish if you don’t have all the gear you need.
These accommodations will transport you out to their ice houses in the morning and bring you back down at sundown after you’ve fished until your heart’s content.
5. What types of folklore will you hear about ice shanties?
In northern climates, communities often place ice shanties at the center of their humorous folklore.
For example, fishermen will decorate their ice shanties in humorous ways (such as with toilets).
Often elements of folklore will involve the inherent danger of erecting a structure on top of a frozen pond.
6. What should you consider before buying an ice shanty?
Ice shanties come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials due to the popularity of ice fishing.
Here’s what you should consider before buying one of your own.
The size of your ice shanty is perhaps the most important aspect to consider.
Ice shanties are supposed to be small and portable, but the space can quickly become cramped if you don’t properly consider the number of people and gear you want to accommodate.
So, ask yourself: how many friends do I want to regularly fish with?
Of course, there will be days when you don’t need your ice shanty, but when the weather turns cold, you’ll want to have shelter.
And you’ll likely all want to use your shelter simultaneously to have a beer or warm up.
Consider how large of an ice shanty you’ll need to accommodate the number of people you have in mind.
Shape is a critical factor you should consider especially in the context of transportation.
While you may prefer one shape to another, remember that you’ll need to transport it by 4×4 truck, snowmobile, or 4-wheeler, and a rectangular ice shanty may be easier to haul than an octagonal or circular.
Similar to shape, material and portability are crucial factors to keep in mind as you’re selecting an ice shanty.
While it may be preferable to select heavy building materials for sturdiness and warmth, portability often becomes an issue.
You’ll want to be able to move your ice shanty from one spot to another and only spend a few minutes setting up and tearing down your shelter.
7. What other equipment do you need for ice fishing besides an ice shanty?
Ice fishing requires more than a bucket, fishing rod, and some bait.
Here are some of the items you may want to bring along or put in your ice shanty.
Shelter (ice shanty)
Basic fishing gear – rod, line, reels, bait, lures, buckets
Fishing license required in your state
Spud bar (a hand tool used to check ice thickness)
Auger (a screw-like device that cuts into the ice)
Skimmer or scoop (ladles slush out of the hole)
Gaff hook (pulls fish through the small hole)
8. What are the three main types of fishing lines for ice fishing?
The three main types of fishing line include:
Monofilament fishing line
- Best overall line
- Used worldwide
- Utilized for most types of fishing
- Handles extreme cold really well
- Offers incredible strength per diameter
Fluorocarbon fishing line
- Virtually disappears underwater
- Works well for targeting line-shy fish
- Sinks and makes it easier to get bait deeper/quicker
- Greater abrasion resistance (but is also able to stretch)
- Offers increased sensitivity and more solid hooksets, particularly in deeper water
- Has more memory than other types of line
- Stiffness can affect lure action with small baits
Braided line fishing line
- Braided fishing line offers incredible sensitivity and excellent hooksets
- Virtually zero stretch
- Excellent response when fighting your catch
- Much more efficient at absorbing line twist
- Results in reduced line memory
- Good option when fishing light tackle
- More visible to fish
8. What time of day is best for ice fishing?
Ice fishing is generally best the first few hours after sunrise and the last couple of hours before sunset.
The first hour after sunrise, in particular, can produce some of the best catches of the day.
For this reason, it’s earned the nickname of “golden hour.”
It’s often recommended that fishermen arrive at their fishing spot an hour before sunrise.
Arriving early will allow you to set up, drill a fishing hole, and wait for the bite.
The morning bite is often shorter than the evening bite.
Being prepared in advance and strategically planning your hole placement can impact your entire experience.
If you’re not a morning person, the event hours before and after sunset are often ideal.
You could catch popular species of fish, like crappie, walleye, and trout during the night bite.
Just like the morning session, prepping ahead of time is essential.
However, if you’re unable to go at sunrise or sunset, fish with unique eating habits can bite throughout the day.
10. What are some ice fishing safety tips you should know?
An ice shanty is the ideal shelter during ice fishing.
However, without the proper safety tips, you can injure yourself during this recreational activity.
Here are a few tips that can help keep you safe this winter.
Share your fishing plans
Before you head out, share your fishing plans with family, friends, or neighbors so that someone knows where you are.
You should let them know the name of the lake you’ll be fishing on, the location of your fishing spot (i.e., north shore, south shore, etc.), and when you plan to arrive home.
If you experience any changes to your plans, you should also notify them.
This is important because these will be the people who notify the authorities if you don’t arrive home when intended.
Bring a friend
When you go ice fishing, you should never go alone.
A friend should be there to provide an extra set of hands, help you stay focused on safety, and alert the authorities if something goes wrong.
Talk to locals
Locals often have the best information on ice thickness and water movement.
Additionally, if there’s anything else you should know, they’ll be able to tell you.
Follow the ice thickness guidelines
It’s crucial to remember that ice is never 100 percent safe, and your circumstances can change quickly.
Here are some guidelines to follow:
- 2 inches or less – STAY OFF
- 4 inches – Ice fishing or other activities on foot
- 5 inches – Snowmobile or ATV
- 8 to 12 inches – A car or small pickup
- 12 to 15 inches – A medium truck
Purchase a flotation suit
A flotation suit is the most important item you can buy when ice fishing.
If you fall through the ice, this suit will keep you warm and make it easier to escape the frigid water.
Carry a pair of ice picks/rescue claws
You should always keep a quality pair of ice picks with you.
If you fall through the ice, having a pick will make it possible to climb out.
Carry a throw rope
A throw rope can be used to pull a fellow angler to safety.
Having this life-saving device is a must-have when you go ice fishing.
Leave the lake before dark
Attempting to navigate the lake at night can be treacherous.
It’s easy to become disoriented when you don’t have familiar visual cues or a navigation device.
For this reason, we recommend leaving the lake well before dark, so you don’t risk getting lost or stuck.
Install proper ventilation
If your ice shanty is heated, you must ensure there is proper ventilation.
A poorly ventilated shanty can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Bring a portable power bank battery charger
Smartphone batteries can quickly drain in cold temperatures.
Having a backup portable power bank on hand is essential.
You may also want to consider turning your phone off in extremely cold temperatures as these can cause permanent damage to the device.
Use your ice auger properly
Ice augers are built to drill holes quickly and efficiently.
Be sure to read the owner’s manual before your first use and avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry.
Once you’re finished with the auger, store it in a safe place.
Maintaining sharp blades can also help prevent injury while drilling.
Hydration is essential in cold weather because your body is working hard to remain warm.
Choose the right number of layers to avoid underdressing or needing to undress.
Often, beginners to winter activities find it’s a hard balance to strike.
Once you master it, you’ll find it greatly improves your day!
11. What should you know about ice fishing etiquette?
Did you know that ice fishing has its own set of rules?
Here’s what you should be aware of before you head out on the ice yourself.
Don’t drill a hole too close to another fisherman.
This is rude, and it can cause lines to become entangled.
Unless you and your neighbor want to go home with empty buckets (spoiler: you don’t), then stick to your own space.
Don’t make too much noise.
You may want to bring your satellite TV and speaker on your ice fishing trip, but we can guarantee that the neighbors (and fish) don’t want to hear what you’re broadcasting.
Make sure you’re respectful to whoever you’re around.
Don’t let your pets off-leash.
If you don’t want your pup to fall down a wet and cold hole, either keep him at home or on a leash.
Don’t allow your kids to wander.
The ice is dangerous for adults — let alone children!
If you’re going to bring your children, then make sure you keep an eye on them.
Do mark your holes.
Always put a large branch or another marker in the holes you leave behind.
This way, the next fisherman won’t fall in as they pass.
Do clean up after yourself.
You should always leave the ice (just like everything else in nature) clean and trash-free.
Take care of the environment just like it’s taking care of you!
If you’re planning to go ice fishing this winter, consider taking some shelter with you.
An ice shanty is a great way to stay warm and enhance your experience.
Read our safety tips before you go and enjoy the sport!
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