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First, a clarification – ice fishing shelters are not the same thing as ice fishing houses or shanties. A shelter is different in that it is easily moved, whereas a house or ice shanty is usually permanent (or at least semi-permanent). Fishing shelters can be made from pretty much any handy wind-breaking material, and you'll see some pretty strange concoctions on a busy Northern lake during hard freezes.
Probably the single biggest advantage of shelters over houses is that portability. Simply put, a shelter allows for fast and easy changing of your fishing position on the frozen lake or river. An ice fishing hut tends to be a pain in the neck if you decide later on that you don’t like the spot you picked out when winter began.
The main disadvantage of an ice shelter versus a more permanent and solid structure is comfort. Depending on where you do your ice fishing, a shelter might leave you shivering and miserable if the wind kicks up. Most houses will afford you protection, even in the nastiest conditions.
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What makes a good shelter?
A popular set-up is a thick tent with a wood floor. Many anglers attach nylon ropes to either side of the base to drag it from spot to spot on the frozen surface. It’s simple to build, lightweight, and very effective in more temperate regions.
See Also: Best Ice Fishing Flasher 2017
A shelter works well in areas where it does not get frigidly cold (Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania), but is not a good idea, generally, in the more northern states, like the U.P. of Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, etc. Fishermen in those areas are better served with a more permanent ice shanty or hut.
One of the more ingenious ice fishing shelter designs is a sort of hybrid shanty/shelter. This entails fashioning thick tarp or canvas around a wooden door and back wall, and a wood floor. It’s lighter and thus more portable, but if built with care will not let in the drafts that a typical tent shelter does.
Best Ice Fishing Gear:
Ice fishing equipment is fairly basic. A simple angler needs a tin can of fresh, live bait, a tip-up, and a crowbar or auger for making a hole in the ice.
Of course, ice fishing can be as complicated as you want it to be. Many anglers build shanties that come equipped with stoves and chimneys. However, all you really require is live bait, a hole in the ice, basic tackle, and a license for catching fish.
One of the most important pieces of ice fishing equipment is warm clothes. This is a sedentary sport and you are liable to freeze if you are not wearing the proper insulated clothing. Bring an auger device to make a hole in the ice. These can be purchased at most sporting goods stores. Also, bring a variety of hooks so you aren’t disappointed when the fish biting that day aren’t the size you expected. Most live bait does well on a No. 4 or slightly larger hook.
The ice fishing equipment you need for live bait
Once you have the majority of your ice fishing equipment, you need a way to transport it. The best way to move your supplies and live bait across a body of frozen water is with a child’s sleigh. Cheap plastic models will do fine. They will make transportation of your supplies nearly effortless.
When angling in the winter, you need to take special precautions to make sure your things don’t freeze. Ice fishing gears must include a bucket with a small hole in the bottom in order to keep live bait like minnows or shad alive. The bucket needs to be placed in a small trench in the ice and water let in through the hole at the bottom. If you’re using worms, keep the dirt warm right up until the moment you leave to go fishing.
Oh, and don’t forget the adult beverages! What would ice fishing be without something to keep your insides toasty?