Best ice fishing sled

Fishing

Even though around 14 million fish are caught during ice fishing season, ice fishing is the fourth most popular winter activity behind sledding, snowmobiling and ice skating.

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Which ice fishing sleds are best? 

With the cooler months ahead, many people love to pass the time and enjoy the great outdoors by ice fishing. The most dedicated anglers know that with winter weather, the amount of necessary equipment increases on top of everything else you usually bring. If you’ve gone ice fishing before, you know that having to carry all your fishing gear across the ice and snow can be quite the process.

Rather than try to carry around everything you need in a bag, try an ice fishing sled. Using an ice fishing sled makes the trek easier, and with a good one, you can ease the strain of hauling your gear. A quality sled should be able to carry a portable shelter, gas or electric auger, rods and reels, as well as a bait bucket and heater. 

Things to know before ice fishing

Regulations

Before heading out, always check with your state’s Department of Natural Resources for more information on local ice fishing rules, regulations and licensing requirements — especially if you’re fishing in a new area. Never attempt to go fishing without a valid license, since many of them are in place to prevent overfishing and loss of the lake’s fishing stock.

Safety measures

Experts recommend that you never ice fish alone, just in case an emergency occurs while you’re out on the ice. Additionally, you should ensure that you mention to someone where you’re fishing, with whom and when you expect to return from your trip. Bringing along proper emergency items such as a life jacket, cell phone, ice rescue picks and claws can also be a lifesaver. 

The minimum thickness of ice that’s safe for a human to walk on is 4 inches. However, if you plan on taking a snowmobile or ATV onto the ice with you, at least 6 inches are required to be considered properly safe; ice shanties require 7-12 inches. Never walk on ice thinner than 2 inches, since you could easily fall through and hypothermia can set in within minutes, especially if the water is below 32 degrees. Being on the lookout for “rotten ice,” which can be identified by its discoloration and cracks, is always best practice.

Ice holes

Creating a large enough ice hole for fishing requires a bit of work, which means you need to bring along an ice saw, ice chisel or auger to speed up the process of digging down through the surface to open water. An ice hole should be no bigger than 10 inches and no smaller than 8 inches so that it isn’t so big that people accidentally fall through, but it’s big enough to pull your catches through.

Using an ice skimmer helps remove any chunks of snow around your fishing hole while keeping it open for fishing. However, if the outside temperature is well below 20 degrees, it will be nearly impossible to keep your hole free from debris, so make sure you plan your trip for a day when temperatures are at or below freezing, but above zero.

Fishing techniques

There are three common fishing techniques used by ice anglers. Light rod fishing usually requires you to use a jigging lure and bait, which is typically either a live or artificial worm or maggot. If you do decide to use live bait, make sure you keep them alive until you’re about to put the bait on your hook. A standard summer rod works just as well as if you were to use a specifically designed ice fishing rod.

If you purchase an ice fishing rod, they feature an in-line reel and a spring bobber attached to the end of the pole. Spring bobbers are better to use when compared to a regular water bobber, since they can easily signal when a fish gives the slightest of bites or nibbles. The tip-up technique uses a device that allows you to fish within multiple ice holes without requiring you to stand by each one.

Each unique rig straddles the hole as the bait on the hook or jig is suspended in the water below at a certain depth. Although spearfishing is considered to be the least popular of all three methods, it typically involves the use of a multi-pronged spear that can stab fish directly through the ice hole. This technique requires a lot more energy, patience and a full bucket of chum.

Top ice fishing sleds

Best sled for gear junkies

Otter Outdoors Sport Sled

Otter Outdoors Sport Sled

100% roto-molded for specific use on tough terrain, this sled features a uniform one-piece body made from polyethylene. Its reinforced outer lip offers strength and support for items placed within its stable sidewalls, and the raised back adds extra security to your cargo. The tow hitch adapter allows the sled to be hitched with ease.  

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Best sled for hole hoppers

Shappell Jet Ice Fishing Sled

Shappell Jet Ice Fishing Sled

Built with simplicity in mind, this sled is ideal if you need to be quick and mobile on your ice fishing trip. The uniform polyethylene body is made to handle any activity an active ice angler may experience, making hole-hopping much easier. Its contoured body further allows for easy pulling through snow, slush and ice.   

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Best sled for snowmobile use

Otter Pro Sled

Otter Pro Sled

Known to have a 3.5-year life span, this ice fishing sled from Otter is extremely durable and made to withstand treks that can take you far and wide around the lake. Made specifically for snowmobile towing, its extra-thick 5/16-inch bottom features a roto-molded polyethylene construction that gives anglers confidence that their equipment remains safe. 

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Best sled for durability

Pelican Trek 75 Multipurpose Utility Sled

Pelican Trek 75 Multipurpose Utility Sled

With its ultra-durable one-piece body, the Trek 75 is built to handle cold weather extremes with ease. You can load up to 500 pounds of ice fishing equipment and still maintain an easy glide on the snow. Measuring 74.5 inches long by 30.5 inches wide with 14.75-inch sidewalls, this sled can store all the gear necessary for a long-term fishing trip. Weighing around 33 pounds, a tow bar is required for hitching. 

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Best sled for multipurpose use

Beavertail Sport Sled

Beavertail Sport Sled

Chances are your outdoor adventures don’t end as soon as ice fishing season is over. Whether you love to go hunting in the fall or camping throughout the summer, this multipurpose sled is sure to be a welcome companion, as it meets the same build standards as other equally durable sled models. Its rigid construction, lightweight material and wide tracks truly set it apart. 

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Best sled for the budget-conscious

Pelican HDPE Sled HYFAX Runner Kit

Pelican HDPE Sled HYFAX Runner Kit

Regardless of if you like to use an ATV, snowmobile or your own two feet when you’re out on the ice hauling all your gear, this sled is bound to make the trek to your favorite fishing spot easier, thanks to the inclusion of sturdy mounting hardware. It also features sturdy HDPE sled runners that alert you when the sled needs to be switched out with a newer one.

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Best sled for long treks

Pelican Mega Utility Glider

Pelican Mega Utility Glider

This heavy-duty polyethylene reinforced sled is large enough to transport a variety of gear, equipment and more when you’re out on the ice. It features ultra-durable side ropes that help facilitate additional cargo attachments like ice huts.  

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Best sled for towing

Flexible Flyer Winter Trek Large Pull Sled

Flexible Flyer Winter Trek Large Pull Sled

Measuring 5.5 feet long, this sled is tough enough to handle heavy loads and rough snow terrain. The molded grooves featured on its bottom help add strength and tracking stability when being pulled through the snow and ice. It’s specifically designed for easy pulling by hand or behind a skier. 

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Best sled tow bar

Frabill Universal Shelter Tow Bar

Frabill Universal Shelter Tow Bar

This tow bar features a compact design that makes storage much easier whether you’re inside a shelter or directly fishing on the open ice. Its universal design and user-friendly attachment pin ensure that the tow attaches effortlessly with most ice shelter models and large- to medium-sized sleds.

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Ashton Hughes writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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