Make the most of your ice shack

Fish shacks, ice houses, shanties, shelters. Whatever you want to call them, they are a savior for ice anglers, especially when temperatures get chilly.
These units come in two different styles (permanents or portables), and are becoming more and more popular every year with Sunset Country anglers.
Permanent shacks are the ones that are set up and sit in the same spot for extended periods of time—usually the whole season for most folks.
Portable shelters, on the other hand, usually are tent-style units that pop up and can be packed in a bag or towed behind a snowmobile or ATV.
Let’s take a look at some tips to get the most out of your ice shelter, as well as how to set up in the best locations and transport with ease.
Take a drive out on the ice road from Kenora or Nestor Falls and you will see plenty of permanent fish shacks dotting the way. They come in all shapes and sizes, and can offer up some serious comfort on the ice.
Some are heated by fire and wood stove while others are heated with propane. Seating arrangements can come in the form of bench seats, lawn chairs, or even couches.
Some shelters even are manufactured with beds inside so anglers can spend the night on the ice!
This may sound a little bit crazy, but it is an extremely popular trend on the Minnesota side of Lake of the Woods. It is estimated there are in some 5,000 shacks on the U.S. side of the lake right now and many offer sleeping arrangements.
Resorts on the south end of the lake rent these units—and do more business during the winter months than in the summer.
There are a few things to consider when setting up your permanent shack on the ice. Obviously, you want to put it in a location where you are going to catch some fish, so it pays to spend some time “pre-fishing” to find a good spot.
Whatever your target species is, spend a day or two finding them before you go through all the work of setting up your rig.
Also, make sure you easily can access your shelter wherever you set it up and try to avoid slush, which could cause problems when you want to pack it up at the end of the season.
If you are setting up for walleye, definitely the most common target species around here, make sure you set up on a nice flat bottom area. Walleyes love little flats a lot more than sharp drop-offs, so keep this in mind.
Check with your flasher and make sure you get a nice solid bottom reading, then drop your favourite jig down there and make sure it hits bottom where it is displayed on the flasher screen.
If it sinks below the bottom line on the flasher, you may be on a bit of a drop-off and this can get really annoying if you fish with a flasher and want to watch your lure while you fish.
Finally, always make sure you never leave a mess on the ice around your shack. This is not only a major turn-off for other anglers, it will get you into big trouble.
Portables, meanwhile, have become very popular recently and are handy because they allow you to be mobile but still have shelter from the elements.
I have a couple of Frabill shelters—a small one-man rig and a larger three-man—and heat both of these with small propane heaters. These are built onto a sled that I can load up with gear and tow behind my snowmobile.
I use these a lot because most days on the ice for me involve fishing for multiple species and putting on some miles.
You have to keep in mind that towing these sleds behind your snowmachine really can rough up your gear, so it pays to pack properly. I like to bring a boat cushion to lay the motor for my power auger on.
I also load it with a few milk crates and five-gallon buckets so everything fits tight and doesn’t slide around.
You can add rings to sides of your sled and then use bungee cords to really button stuff down.
If you have not used an ice-fishing shelter before, you owe it to yourself to give one a try. They make ice fishing fun and allow you to head out without worrying about the weather.
A further advantage includes pulling fish into a relatively warm environment so that if you are going to release them, they don’t freeze their gills or eyes right away.

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