Boats On The Ice: Equipping Your Portable Shelter

By Glen Schmitt
Staff Writer

Portable ice fishing shelters were designed to keep mobile anglers warm. They allowed a new-found run and gun approach to winter angling that meant fishing more comfortably and effectively on the ice.

Today, the portable shelter is one of the most common tools used throughout the ice fishing belt. But for many winter anglers, they’ve become more than a plastic tub covered with canvas. In a sense, portable shelters on the ice are the equivalent to boats on the water.

While many fishermen are fine with these units out of the box, others have taken to accesorizing their portables to new heights. Some add ons are developed in the shed, while others are now offered by manufacturers.

Either way, it’s up to the individual and you can accesorize as much or as little as you want. There’s no right or wrong answers here, it’s personal preference, but here are some options.

Lanterns seem to be falling by the wayside with quality LED lighting being the more common approach for portable shelter users. LED’s are available in ropes, bars, or sticks and are easily attached to your poles and tub.

They work well in cold weather, are less of a hassle than traditional lighting sources, and are usually brighter. You can even purchase an LED/fan combo that provides light and air movement.

Organization is a big deal for the portable ice shelter angler and many of them have come up with some form of system that keeps gear where it’s intended, yet remains easily accessible.

That could involve an added floor platform or inner tub rail system built at home that’s set up just the way you want it. You can use any material that’s suitable, just keep in mind that this will put on added weight, which is noteworthy if your pull your shelter by hand.

The more simple option is a plastic milk crate or two that can be mounted or just placed on the floor of your tub. They work great for locator’s, propane tanks, clothing, or any other bigger pieces of equipment.

Several companies also make plastic trunks with padded seats that provide storage and a comfortable seating option. Cargo nets mounted on the inside rail of the tub or behind the seats, and homemade or store bought rod and reel cases help keep things organized as well.

Self-made or manufactured locator/GPS/underwater camera brackets are a great addition. They keep your electronics at an arm’s distance and off the ice. They also allow you to situate your electronic devices where you find them most comfortable.

Along those lines, battery brackets mounted on the rail or floor of your tub for additional power sources are a great idea, as are some form of rod holder. Again, both items can be bought or developed and built at home.

Last, but certainly not least, is the ability to protect the exterior of your shelter and the gear within it. That means adding some form of sled runner kit and shelter cover.

Most tubs are built of high-grade material, but they still take abuse across rough terrain and will deteriorate over time. A sled runner kit takes the stress off the tub and ultimately gives your shelter a longer life.

Once you have all your gear organized inside your tub, one of the best purchases you’ll make is a cover that goes over the entire shelter when it’s folded down.

This prevents you from worrying about something bouncing out of it if pulled behind a snowmobile or ATV and keeps the snow, slush, and water off your equipment.

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