The 10 Best Ice Shelters
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in December of 2016. Huddling next to a hole cut into a frozen lake as you wait for your next bite is a great way to bond with friends or family, or to just get away from it all, but it doesn't need to be a cold and miserable experience. With the right insulated shelter erected around you and your buddies, your ice fishing expeditions can be a comfortable, laid-back affair, no matter how low the temperature drops. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
October 28, 2020:
We wanted to expand on the list we'd put together last time, and in seeking out additional models we found a few nice additions. One of the most exciting of these is the Clam Corporation X400, which offers exceedingly well-insulated walls of 900-denier material. Basically speaking, the higher that number is, the more rugged a shelter is going to be. The X400 also features an easily removable floor you can put in place with simple Velcro, and a big skirt to pile up snow and keep drafts out. Its insulation is measured at 90 grams per square meter, as well, making this one of the warmest options out there. The only thing to keep in mind if you want as much insulation and durability as possible is that both aspects may increase the carrying weight of a given model, though the X400 comes in at a pretty reasonable 47 pounds.
We also added the Trophy Strike 106708 and the Guide Gear Insulated. That Guide Gear model is a great example of a tradeoff between durability and weight, as it's a lot easier to carry than many others at just 33 pounds, but its 300-denier fabric isn't liable to last as long. The Trophy Strike model is similar — 300D and very lightweight — but it has the added advantage of being flame retardant, which can be important depending on the heat source you prefer.
December 18, 2019:
When it comes to something like an ice shelter, bigger is definitely not always better. If you know you'll be regularly fishing with a group it will be worth your while to invest in a large option like the Elkton Outdoors Double Hub or the Eskimo Fatfish 949i, but remember the fewer bodies in a space means more area to heat, plus the larger the shelter, the more likely you'll have trouble dragging through an unusually deep snow.
So if you only ever fish with one buddy, stick with the two person models like the Frabill Citadel 3255. And if you're like a lot of ice fishers who like the solitary quiet, consider something even smaller.
We chose to replace the discontinued Clam Bigfoot XL with another single person model, the Frabill Recruit, because ice fishing is rarely a large group activity, and heating a shelter the size of the Bigfoot takes quite a bit of propane.
We also added the Shappell FX100 for anglers who desire the maximum mobility. Not only is this option less than 50 pounds, but its flip-over frame makes it easier to move. Keeping it lighter is the fact that it doesn't have thermal insulation, but its compact size and 600 denier polyester fabric helps it to retain heat.
Glacier 20 RV EXPLORER While it should only ever be employed on ice that can withstand many more times its weight, this model is the ultimate luxury ice fishing environment. It's a 20-foot RV trailer with amenities like eight ice holes, room to sleep five people, a 30,000 BTU forced air furnace, a 20-gallon fresh water tank, and more. Of course, you might be accused of being part of the glamping crowd if you show up in it. glaciericehouse.com
A Brief History Of Ice Fishing
Just know that the longer you stay out there, the more likely it is you'll come home to a much colder environment.
If you've known any dedicated fishermen, then you know they won't let a little thing like freezing cold and a rock-hard surface of frozen water get between them and a day on the lake.
The first known groups to successfully ice fish were First Nations peoples some 2,000 years ago, who would chop holes in the ice with chisels and then spearfish through them. Eventually, they transitioned to using rods before perfecting a technique which allowed them to set nets with lures in the water. This allowed them to deal with other matters and come back later to a bounty of food.
Around 1770, modern rod and reel fishing became standard the world over. Ice fishermen used these new methods as well, but in the early 20th century they began to transition to much smaller rods. This allowed them to fish without obstructing their view of what was happening in the hole.
This made ice fishing much easier, especially when paired with the power auger, which was invented in 1948, allowing hobbyists to drill through the ice in seconds with minimal effort.
There was only one problem left to address: the cold. While it's not known when the first enterprising angler decided it was more convenient to live on the ice than at home, we do know that the first pop-up tents were invented by Dave Genz in the 1980s.
Modern shanties range from simple tents to small paradises on wheels, and today's ice fishermen take advantage of all of the advancements available to them, including fish finders, underwater cameras, and of course, portable heaters.
Thanks to all these conveniences, it's easier than ever to fish for as long as the ice holds. Just know that the longer you stay out there, the more likely it is you'll come home to a much colder environment.
Choosing The Right Shelter
Having an ice shelter is an important part of any day on the lake. The first thing to think about is the type of shelter you prefer. There are three primary choices: hub-, flip-, and cabin-style.
The hub-style is usually the most affordable, while also offering plenty of space and being easy to set up. They're usually lightweight, which makes them easy for one person to transport. However, that also means they struggle in high winds. Anchoring takes a fair amount of time, so they're not ideal for anyone who likes to move around from hole to hole.
That keeps the cold of the ice at bay while also trapping warmth from any heaters you might be using.
Flip-style shelters are basically sleds that you pull to your desired spot before flipping the tent over the entire location. From there, it's simply a matter of locking the poles in place. They're extremely convenient, but expect to pay a premium for that convenience. They get heavy, as well, so dragging them may be a struggle for some users.
Built-in floors are the biggest selling point of cabin-style shelters. That keeps the cold of the ice at bay while also trapping warmth from any heaters you might be using. Setting them up is a little bit of a chore, though, as is relocating them.
Once you've picked a design, try to get a shelter that has the thickest material possible. Most are made of nylon, so look for one with a high denier count. Just be aware that the higher you go, the more you'll pay — and the heavier it'll be.
There are different sizes to choose from, as well, so decide whether you plan to take a buddy along or go solo. Some (usually the flip-style) have built-in seats; if yours doesn't, expect to add chairs to the list of gear you'll have to lug around.
The good news is you should be able to find an option that's perfect for you and your needs. Now if you can just find a portable TV that gets good reception, you never need to go home again.
Tips For Catching The Big One
It's not the car you drive, the size of your bank account, or even how good you are at raising your kids that determines your worth as a human. Nope, all that matters is the size of the fish you catch — and we're here to help you be the best you can be.
Before we get started — and hopefully this goes without saying — be sure the ice is thick enough to support you, wherever you end up. You don't want to have to be fished out of the water yourself.
If you prefer to pick a spot and stay there, medium-depth water is probably your best bet.
The most important thing is to match your bait and lures to the fish you want to catch. This involves doing a little research beforehand, but that time will be extremely well-spent. Try to make your jigs dance in order to draw attention; subtle flicks of the wrist while raising and lowering the rod should help.
Don't get married to a single spot, either. Using your handy fish finder, drill holes and do some reconnaissance before you drop a line. This will require a little more work up-front — but it also means extra work on the back end, when you have to clean all those fish.
Look for shallow areas with a fair amount of weeds. These tend to be filled with burrowing insects, which means there are also fish around looking for lunch. Try to find a spot of medium depth where there's a long, flat surface underneath (ideally with a drop-off to deeper water nearby). This is where the truly big swimmers tend to be.
The time of day is also important. Stick to the shallows at dusk and dawn, but move out into deeper water as the sun rises. If you prefer to pick a spot and stay there, medium-depth water is probably your best bet.
If you follow these tips, the fish you bring home may finally start being bigger than the ones that got away.