ICE SHACK DESIGN
by Daniel Kiazyk
It happened this year that the ol' ice shack needed some repairs. It was in this mind set that my ice fishing partner and I started to comment on fundamentals of the "fishable" ice shack. Our ramblings have re-created our ice shack so that it has become (in my opinion) a very efficient and comfortable part of our ice-fishing repertoire.
Size: An ice shack can be any size. I've seen some so small that people had to crawl in and others so large that people had TV's, card tables, and a fridge (?) and other amenities that you'll often see in a modern home. As far as that goes, a two person shack should be large enough for two people to sit comfortably and large enough so that if, and that's "if", a large fish were to come up through the hole, the fish could be handled with ease.
Details: Access and egress in a two-man shack is better through the side of the shack. The latter facilitates easy entry and exit by both anglers. It's also a fine idea to put the stove in between the holes on the opposite side from where you will sit (it's also easier to load the stove with wood if it is located in such a position). As such, the heat from the stove will not only keep the shack's inhabitants warm, but it will also keep holes ice -free on even the coldest day! Hanging hooks for rods are a good idea. These hooks will keep a rod in the shack and out of the hole/lake bottom. I'll use simple tea cup hooks (available at most hardware stores) and when I've got something do and want to keep my line in the water, I'll hang up the rod by a guide and loosen off the drag. Other hooks can also be added to hang items such as clothes, a frying pan (a great idea itself when you've got some deer sausage that you want to share with your buddies!).
Safety: Holes in the shack need a sufficiently large cover. The cover should be able to be secured in both an open and a closed position. Important for the open position is an ability to close the cover once a larger fish is pulled into the shack. A very good idea is to have a gaff if you plan on keeping a large fish. A good ice pick/bar is also an important item if the need arises to move the shack. Flooding, freezing and thawing in the spring will lock an ice house into the ice. A good pick/bar will help you free those parts of the shack frozen into the lake. Finally making the holes inside of your shack large enough and with enough space to be able to use your ice auger within the shack (safely) is a capital idea. I've seen many fellows wrap their knuckles when the hole wasn't big enough or was not positioned appropriately.
Odds and Ends
Some little things we've done over the past while to improve our shack have been; Having storage space for wood, axe paper and a bit of used oil (used as an ignition aid) under our seats has improved the storage factor in our shack . Provision for a tray/metal roof is a good idea as any wood material will rot from the continual heating and cooling over the year. A locking system is a good idea but be realistic, it only helps keep out "honest" people. Skids also need to be rugged and not too high or too low… a 2 x 4 seems too low and a 2 x 6 seems just about right – I'm not too sure what to say… this really is a matter of preference. Don't forget to drill holes through the skids and to put a large enough rope through it. This rope will serve as your tow-bar (put a hook up on the side so that you can hang the rope when not in use) Windows aren't necessary, but some prefer not to have them as it's easier to see in the dark, especially if you're fishing clear water. A small axe and a shovel for cleaning out ashes from the stove are both very useful items. Finally, after having suggested enough stuff to make any shack a real tank, weight is a significant consideration. Loading, unloading, hauling are all made that much more difficult if your shack is too heavy!
Many other suggestions are possible. An ice shack is a personal "thing" and different conditions will dictate different configurations, but that's what makes an ice shack interesting to fish in (and think about for the next overhaul) while the wind is just a howling outside!.