By Montana Grant

Posted: January 21, 2021

Shanties, tents, and outhouses are often used for ice fishing. Real Ice Men do not need them. If it is so cold that you need and Icehouse to stay warm, they stay home.

Now I know that there are many ice fishermen that feel they need all the comforts of home. We have all seen the amazing ice mansions that come with a heater, sofa’s and… Somehow, this type of shelter misses the point of ice fishing. On several lakes I have ice fished, Ice Shanties are often billowing smoke from people smoking weed or getting drunk. Many shanty bound anglers catch few fish. I am sure that Shanty Lovers will disagree.

When fishermen set up an icehouse, that’s where they plan to spend the day. Its too much work to reposition. If you set up on fish immediately, then great. If you do not, then enjoy fishing without catching. When you drag a shanty onto the ice, you also need the auger, shovel, rods, seats, etc. That is a lot of stuff. Maybe if the ice is thick, you can use a wheeler or truck. For that you need hard, thick, late season ice. By the time you make your first motorized excursion, half the ice season is over.

Using a custom equipped sled makes more sense. You can have what you need and easily move on the ice until you find the fish. The sled can also double as your seat, rod, and gear holder. It slides easily and offers safety.

Ice fishing is cold. That is why you need to dress for the occasion. Handwarmers, heated socks, other great gear, and hot fishing will keep you comfortable. Using the shanty as a warming station is not a bad idea. If you have rookies, kids, and pets, a place to get comfortable is helpful. They even make portable toilets with disposable bags. This also means more stuff to haul.

If you insist on a shanty, learn where, when, and how to use one. Most people drag their gear onto the ice until they get tired. That is where they set up. If you leave the shanty on the ice, the ice can move, nature will move your shanty, thieves will steal your shanty. Sadly, not everyone is honest.

Where you set up is important if you want to catch fish. Do your homework first. Look at lake maps that show channels, structure, and depths. Points and coves with inlets are good spots. Shanty less Ice Men do the same.  Guessing means that you are already skunked.

Ice Men stay warm on HOT fishing! Sure, if you are in a cozy shanty, you could fish in your underwear. But in reality, most shanty bound anglers’ fish more than catch. At the end of the day, dragging a mobile sled, filled with fish, is easier than hauling a shanty, and all the rest of your gear.

Years ago, I fished a place called Broad Creek. The lake was a flooded area that backed up when they built the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River. Several old stone buildings were covered by the water. We located and defined the coordinates using a fish finder in the summer. This area was heavily fished once the ice came on. I can remember hundreds of anglers. We would set up on these old structures and slam the crappies, perch, and bass. If you were not on the structure, you were not on the fish. We would limit out while fishermen 50 feet away got skunked.

If you are committed to a shanty, at least locate the fish first on scouting trips. Fish move as the season changes. Some areas are better in the morning or evening. Night fishing can be awesome if you are in the right place. Set up where and when you have a chance to catch fish.

Even when I move around on the ice, I cut satellite holes. If the fishing slows in one area, I trek over to the side holes to see if the fish moved. Usually, these holes vary in depths. If a new area heats up, I move. Shanty guys stay where they have heat and maybe cold fishing.

There is not one most important thing about ice fishing but, MOBILITY is really important. Everyday on the ice is different. The barometric pressure, light, temperature, feeding cycles, and depth of the fish are changing constantly. You can do everything right but if you are not on the fish, you are fishing and not catching.

Adapt, adjust, and achieve fishing success!

Montana Grant

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