In southern Canada’s ice-fishing season, lakes have been traditionally dotted with wooden ice huts or shanties. These are frozen in places with propane or home-built oil drip stoves to keep the anglers warm.
Rarely in the Yukon have I seen such huts, but occasionally a collapsible tarp and plywood
structure are seen.
The modern ice-angler is into convenience and portability, so the innovative pop-up units are very common, quite sturdy, and relatively inexpensive. They come in a variety of brands, such as Rapala and Eskimo, which also produce other ice-fishing related gear.
The simplest shelters are for two people, and some come as a complete kit including tent, chair, sled, auger and rods for less than $500. Some smaller units are designed with the sled forming the frame of half the interior, with the tent about twice as wide as the sled and pegged down to the ice. The anglers sit on chairs in the sled and fish through holes located in the other half of the tent. These sleds are usually designed to be pulled by the walking angler, rather than by a snowmobile.
Other tents are made to accommodate three to seven anglers, and are made with a rugged rip-stop nylon-like material, many with the poles in sleeves to create the pop-up capability. The seven person Eskimo model is a huge 109 square feet.
Even the well-designed, larger units can be erected very quickly. Small or large, all must be pegged down with the ice-anchor system, because their lightweight and large surface area will have them blown across the lake with very little wind. If needed, additional sturdy screw-in ice anchors are available at dealers. These units are also light and sturdy enough that in a “no-wind” situation they can be carried and set up in a different location. When collapsed, any of these units can be packed into the snowmobile skimmer with the auger, the heater, and all the other gear.
Electronic devices have become very common for hard-water angling, and of course, the sky’s the limit as far as prices go.
Sonar (fish-finders) all include GPS, some with mapping, including underwater contours and temperatures. Underwater video equipment seems to be a must-have for many anglers, and pricing has come down for basic units since the introduction of these devices.
Many anglers, including families and people on a budget, still ice fish without the above-mentioned shelters, using a tarp as a windbreak, lighting a big fire not far from the holes, or fishing close to shore where the forest breaks the wind.
Of course, modern electronics may increase your angling luck, but they are expensive and for many people these technical advances just don’t feel right.
My favourite ice-fishing time is April when the ice is still very thick, the sun is warm, and the fish are still biting.
If you are lucky.