Lighten Up On The Ice

By Dan Galusha


The popularity of ice fishing has been growing rapidly. Many people who don’t participate, or are just thinking about starting, have the idea that most ice anglers use ice sheds with stoves, and drive snowmobiles and trucks on the ice. A lot of this is due to news footage from colder states, and movies, such as Grumpy Old Men. However, there are a large group of these anglers who venture out on foot, and must carry and tow their equipment by hand.


It is for the “men and women on foot” that this article is written. For these people it is very important to think about “lightening up.”

The lightest way to go is with a bucket—some tackle inside, hand drill and one rod, but when doing this, a few more helpful items will be left behind.



I’m one of these ice anglers on foot, and while wanting to stay as light as possible, comfort and convenience are still important. To help the person wanting to get started, here is a list of items on my sled:

Since the sled was mentioned let’s start with this item. Frabill has the perfect units for the individual angler, in models Recon, Pro, Commando and Thermal Commando Flip-Overs, which are one-man portable shelters. If two anglers are heading out, then try a Thermal Trekker or Trekker Deluxe, which are also lightweight, and have an ample sled for whatever is needed to be carried. When using my Trekker, and fishing alone, it is lightened up further by removing one of the two padded seats. By removing the seat it provides a little more room for other equipment.

The next item weighs the most, but, as with my Vexilar, I wouldn’t be without it. This is a Jiffy Pro4 Propane Ice Drill. A hand drill would conserve greatly on weight, but it would also take a lot more work, energy and time that could be spent for moving around to other spots, or better yet, fishing.


Along the same line as the drill is a Jiffy Mill Lacs Chisel. This is used to open old holes, and is especially useful for anglers fishing everyday, or every other day. It will also cut new holes, but don’t plan on cutting too many through ice over four inches thick without planning on frequent rest breaks.


One Frabill Sit-N-Fish bucket, with a Styrofoam insert is inside the sled, which is used for storing terminal tackle, hand warmers, Berkley PowerBait, wax worms, a camera, and a few miscellaneous items. There is also a Frabill Rod Safe, which is a lightweight, hard rod case, in which I have four Straight Line rod and reel combos.


Since I practice catch and release, there is no need to plan for a fish bucket, but if a person wished to use one, then an extra empty bucket may be needed. To this bucket a Pail Pak could be attached on the outside, which would provide storage for rod/reel combos, small Plano tackle boxes, ice picks, and a couple of tip-ups.


For anglers needing tip ups, Frabill produces a good variety of round thermal, stick, compact and rail models. These are all very lightweight.

On very cold days a Coleman catalytic heater is carried. One or two propane cylinders will also be needed, which can also be used as a spare for the Pro4 drill. Remember, always dispose of the empty cylinders in a proper way, and never throw them on the ice or along shore.

Some miscellaneous items that I carry are a Vexilar FL22HD flasher or Double Vision unit (Fish Scout camera with flasher unit in same case), Frabill Ice Scoop with 30-inch handle, a box of assorted Custom Jigs and Spins ice jigs (in a storage area built into the base of the Vexilar flasher case), 100 feet of floating braided rope, long nose pliers, and hemostats.


This will give a person a good idea of how to “lighten up” without sacrificing too much.

For further information on some of the products mentioned visit the following websites: Frabill (, Jiffy (, Vexilar (, Berkley PowerBait (, and Custom Jigs and Spins (

If you have further questions, contact me through the Dan’s Fish ‘N’ Tales® web site at, which also links to the Fishing Facts website.


Until next time, get out on the water, and have a great day of fishing.