Using an ice-fishing shelter—even on warm, clear days—can help you hook more fish. Here’s why


The crappies were biting like crazy last week, suspended about four feet off the bottom and rising up as soon as they spotted my 1 1/4-inch gold Williams Wabler spoon clear the bottom of the ice hole. The two moving targets train-wrecked in the middle of the water column, and it was one gorgeous plate-shaped slab after the other.

Surprisingly, however, that’s not what Andrew —a friend on social media—picked up on when I posted an image. Instead, he sent me a note asking why I had set up a shelter on such a glorious, blue-sky, sunny, warm day. I think it’s the first time I’ve been quizzed about that, but it’s an excellent question.


Like most ice anglers, I used to put an ice shelter into the back of the truck and set it up only when the temperature dipped below about -15°C (5°F).  When it was warmer than that, I’d dress according to the elements and fish outside. But the last few years I’ve been spending more and more time inside the shelter and the results have shown the wisdom of that decision.

Indeed, like I said, we experienced record setting warm temperatures last week.  As a matter of fact, when I drove through Sioux Narrows, the big sign outside the Ontario Sport Fishing Centre was flashing 11° C or 52° F. And I had to squint to see it because the sun was so blinding.  So why in the world did I pop up the two person Bass Pro Shops XPS shelter?


Well, the first reason is that I obsess over watching my line. I tend to use the absolute lightest line I can get away with—not the heaviest. Three-pound test is my go-to strength for crappies, but I always have at least one rod rigged with two-pound, and I use it if I think it will help me present my bait more naturally.

I also hate adding split shot to my line—especially ultra-light—so that means even the slightest breeze will billow my line, and make it hard to see when my line tightens up or twitches, signalling that a crappie has inhaled the bait. Even a gentle breeze, like we had last Thursday, hinders the presentation, so I pop up the hut.


When I’m fishing for walleye, jumbo perch, whitefish or lake trout, on the other hand, I favour spooling my reels with an ultra-thin, no stretch, micro dyneema gel-spun line. The combination of sensitivity and hook-setting power is unparalleled. But the lines don’t absorb water, so it builds up and candles on your line and plugs up your rod tip when you’re fishing outside. That never happens when you’re fishing inside the shelter.

Finally, when I’m fishing for stocked brook trout, rainbows and splake, a quick hub-style pop up shelter that’s black inside (like the XPS model) is a godsend. Even when the sun is shining brightly, it’s as dark as midnight on a moonless night inside the hub.  So, when I auger four or five holes close together I can watch the trout swim in, check my lure and then bite. It not only doubles the excitement and fun, but you can see how the fish are reacting to your presentation. In fact, if you’ve never fished inside a totally blackened shelter, and watched the trout size up your lure, I can just about guarantee that most days you’re over-working your lure.

So, those are the reasons why, even on the warmest record-setting days, I popped up the shelter and fished inside. It takes me less than a minute to pop it up and take it down, and it’s worth its 20 pound weight in gold.