I used to wonder why anyone would want to sit in the middle of a frozen lake in the middle of winter and fish through a hole in the ice. Icy winds, sub-zero temperatures, and the risk of frostbite would most certainly keep me indoors. Then I learned about ice shanties and how these portable shelters have evolved from simple, plywood boxes to the technologically impressive creations that we see on the ice today. There are many different ice shanties available and choosing just one out of the variety of sizes, materials, and features available can be a bit overwhelming. Like any other major piece of tackle, however, all you have to do is stay focused on your needs and it won’t be long before you’re sheltered out on the ice.
The first thing to consider when choosing an ice shanty is how many anglers you’ll need room for out on the ice. This isn’t the easiest factor to account for, as you never really know if you’ll have a buddy or two with you, or if you’ll want to head out alone. The best advice I can give on this matter is for you to think ahead and try to come up with a number of how many people you honestly feel will want to fish with you, then choose a shanty for that number. If the higher price of a two or three person shelter is causing some skepticism, talk to your fishing partners about splitting the costs, especially if you’ll all use the shanty together often.
For those anglers who venture out onto their local pond or small lake alone, a simple pullover shanty with a sled bottom is perfect. These easily transported shelters rest on a sled base, which also serves as a convenient storage transport for your gear as you pull the entire rig to your spot. With these sleds, you can simply drill your hole, position your sled, and fish at your leisure after pulling the framed cover up and over you. This style can be found in a two-person model as well.
Another popular style is the cabin-like, collapsible shelter that, when fully assembled, can house up to five anglers, depending on the model. These flat-bottomed, enclosed shanties usually feature rectangular flaps on the floors that provide direct access to the ice. They also collapse down and fold to near flatness, which makes storage a breeze. However, their lack of sled bottom does make transportation a little harder. This can be avoided by attaching sled runners, which allow the shelters to slide easily on the ice once they’re attached.
One thing to remember, as with anything in life, is that quality matters. Yes, more often than not, you’ll spend a little a more if you want a nice product, but knowing what to look for and a willingness to buy a shanty that will continue to perform season after season, when cheaper models will fall apart, will make the higher cost worth it. Try to find a model that has windows, and even ventilation, just in case your heater, should you have one, makes it warm inside. Most importantly, make sure your shanty will fit both in your car, and wherever you plan to store it during the warmer seasons. While you’re at the store, feel free to get inside and sit inside the shelters. Shop smart, know what features you want, and don’t be afraid to spend a little more if needed. A few extra dollars for durability and comfort on the ice will pay for itself in the long run.