Joe Hackett
Jason Hages, of Fort Ann, shows off his portable ice shanty during a fishing trip in January.
 
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When thinking of ice fishing, the classic sight of someone hunched over a hole in the ice, jigging rod in hand, perched on a cooler is most likely what comes to mind.

Of course, some fishermen want to get a little more protection from the elements than just their jacket can provide. Hence, the ice shanty.

Once the ice gets to be thick enough, it's common to see little houses pop up in the middle of a lake. Sometimes they even sport a little curl of smoke from a small wood stove.

But the classic ice shanty is now being joined by smaller, more agile shelters.

An ice shanty, by definition, is any sort of shelter that is taken out onto the ice so that fishermen have a shelter to fish from. It provides protection from the wind and blowing snow, as well as bitterly cold temperatures.

Classic ice shanties are typically built just like a house, with seats, windows, walls and a roof. The floor opens up so that fishing can still be accomplished in the relative warmth of the shanty. Typically, the shanty will have enough room for two or more people, and depending on the owner, may have heat, TV, radio or any other number of modern conveniences.

However, the welcoming warmth of the large shanty comes with a trade-off. They are quite heavy, so the ice has to be thick before bringing them out. And unless the owner lives on a water-front property, the shanty will need to be transported to a boat launch. A truck, four-wheeler or large snowmobile is needed to get the shanty out on the ice as well, and of course the whole process will have to be reversed in the spring when the shanty comes off the ice.

There are also several regulations regarding ice shanties. If being left on the ice, the owner's name and address must be marked in letters at least three inches high, and ice shanties must be taken off the ice by March 15 to prevent them from falling through the ice.

There are some other options for those wishing to be out of the elements or have a little more protection when on the ice.

Manufacturers have developed much smaller, more portable one- and two-person shanties that can be dragged out on the ice by hand every time you want to go fishing.

Essentially, these shanties are tents built onto a sled. They are collapsible but when assembled will stand up to pretty strong winds. Obviously, they won't have as many amenities as the larger shanties, but can be much more comfortable than sitting out exposed to the elements.

The portable shanties are built with a high-sided sled as the base, which makes them easy to drag, even over rough surfaces, while keeping snow out of the shanty itself.

When you get to where the fish are, you can drill a hole in the ice and then pop up the shelter portion of the shanty. The shelter is typically made of heavy duty nylon which blocks the wind, and there may be clear plastic windows to allow natural light in. Often the ceiling of the shanty will be a thicker material, allowing body heat to become trapped to make the shelter warmer.

Depending on the size of the shanty, there will be one or two seats in the sled. They will be at a comfortable height for sitting, and will keep your butt dry and warm. The tent extends out past one side of the sled to enclose both the sled and the hole drilled in the ice so that the fisher can be totally enclosed and out of the elements while still sitting comfortably close to the jigging hole.

Obviously, there are benefits to each kind of shanty, and some fishermen may have more than one for different uses.

The smaller shanties are easy to move, so they can come off the ice each day or be moved around to find fish. They can be put in the back of a truck or large car, so there's no need for a trailer or to drive out on the ice. A larger ice shanty can be a comfortable getaway if you have a more permanent spot to set it up, just be prepared for a little more work moving it around.