Ice fishing has progressed substantially from what it was when I first started to what it is today. Growing up sitting on a 5-gallon pail in the blistering cold blindly waiting for a fish to strike and the opportunity to pull it through a hole in the frozen lake. Now today as I’m comfortably sitting on a couch in a t shirt watching the hockey game on TV at the same time pulling fish through a seemingly similar hole in the ice but from the comfort of my permanent ice house.
Ice house, ice shack, hut, shanty, or permanent house just like the many names for these structures on the hard water there are many types. From scrap wood thrown together to form a floor, four walls and a roof to luxury camper style houses on wheels that lower onto the ice. Whatever size, shape, or style they are designed to keep you out of the elements, warm, comfortable, easy set up and moved onto the lake and remain until spring arrives and the ice starts to melt. A permanent shack is a great option when you don’t want to spend your whole day punching hundreds of holes and setting up multiple times while battling the elements.
With the introduction of pop up shelters and “run and gun” style of ice fishing vs sit and wait there has been much debate over levels of success with these two styles. While my pop up shelter gets a workout throughout the ice fishing season I can’t argue my success and comfort when fishing in my permanent ice shack. Sometimes it’s not about the number of fish caught but the memories made with family and friends in the ice shack. Using a few simple techniques, you can catch just as many fish in a permanent shack as drilling hundreds of holes and covering the entire lake with more time fishing and less time drilling and setting up. Here are a few tactics I use to put more fish on the ice.
I utilize early season ice that won’t hold my permanent ice house to deploy my pop up and the run and gun style to scout for hot spots and figure out patterns. These hot spots and intel gained during this time set me up for success when the ice is thick enough for the permanent ice house to make its way onto the ice. Once I have established and GPS marked things like structure, drop offs, depth and number and size of fish caught in these areas as well as time of day it’s time to determine where to drop my permanent ice house.
Although not necessary the use of electronics can greatly increase your level of success when fishing in a permanent ice house. Being able to see the structure, slope, and direction fish are moving on my Marcum Recon 5+ underwater camera and see how the fish are moving and reacting on my Marcum LX7 can determine whether I stay put and wait or move. I typically move my ice house 10-20 times a season to stay on the fish or in pursuit of higher numbers or bigger fish but not without doing some homework and most of the time it’s a slight adjustment closer to structure, deeper or shallower determined by what I’m seeing on my electronics.
I typically target Walleye, perch and pike on a reservoir lake with old river channels, rock and wood structure, and vast mud/sand flats. More times than not and like most lakes there is a prime-time bite and you must wait it out in between roaming fish mid-day. Now you could go run and gun when fishing slows down after prime time but If you’re like me and you put in your time sitting on a 5-gallon pail and now enjoy being warm and comfortable while enjoying the sport of ice fishing there are some options to increase your success.
When the bite slows down I typically do two things. One is switch up my lures and techniques. When the fish traffic slows, I tie on something that will attract them. Maybe they have moved off the mud flat to the nearby river channel and are not far away. For this some of my favorites are the Kamooki Lures Smartfish it has an extremely loud rattle and action that can call fish in for miles. Another one is the Matzuo Ikari Shad perfect for vertical jigging with a loud rattle, vibrations and bright patterns that the walleye can’t resist investigating. Now typically these will call them in and when investigating if they don’t attack the lure they will take the easy meal of the simple minnow and jig head on my nearby deadstick. Another secret weapon I use is scent. Using an attractant on your lures such as Liquid Mayhem can bring in nearby fish and get them to stay longer and hit harder. Second I typically try to position my permanent shack where I can utilize many different options and techniques throughout the day. Positioning near structure that holds fish or on the mud flat close to the river channel where mid-day the walleye move to. I can now throw out a tip up to cover more ice but still watch the flag from the comfort of my couch and not miss the 3rd period of the hockey game. I prefer to battle fish with a rod rather than hand over had so my go to tip up is the I Fish Pro tip up. This is also an option I use at night paired with an LED light that activates when the flag is tripped that I can see out of the window of my shack.
You don’t have to spend your whole day drilling holes to catch fish and you don’t have to sacrifice comfort for catching fish. Utilize a few of these tactics in your permanent ice house and I guarantee you will put more fish on the ice this winter and have more fun doing it.