Hauling heavy gear over long stretches of ice and snow is no one’s idea of a fun time. Unfortunately, it’s part of the game if you want to get out on the ice with all of your ice fishing equipment.
A good ice fishing sled will make your life much easier. Rather than trying to stuff everything into a backpack or duffel, loading your gear into a lightweight polyethylene sled with molded runners will make dragging it over long distances a breeze.
A good sled can easily hold an electric or gas auger, bait buckets, multiple rods and reels, a heater, multiple tip-ups, and a portable shelter. Try carrying all of that on your back!
Whether you pull your sled by hand or tow it behind a quad/snowmobile, an ice fishing sled is an essential investment for every ice angler.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Ice Fishing Sleds
- Best Overall: Shappell Jet Ice Fishing Sled
- Extra Large Ice Sled: Flexible Flyer Winter Trek Sled
- Compact Sled: Shappell Jet Sled Jr Camo
- Also Consider: Otter Sport Sled
- Also Consider: Beavertail Sport Sled
Why do you need an ice fishing sled
If you’re just carrying a bucket, small hand auger, and rod, then you probably won’t need a sled. However, if you’re like most ice anglers, a sled will give you the convenience of carrying all of your gear in one easy-to-transport compartment.
Some ice fishing sled benefits:
Portability. Ice fishing sleds are specifically designed for dragging over snow and ice, making long-distance transport much easier. They typically feature molded grooves on the bottom to add tracking stability and decrease friction on the snow and ice.
Convenience. Ice sleds are super easy to use. They’re just as easy to pull by hand as to tow behind an ATV or snowmobile. Sliding your gear behind you will also save your back from strain and wear and tear.
Carrying Capacity. Depending on how much gear you need to haul, there is an ideal sized ice sled for you. A large ice sled can hold everything you could possibly need while ice fishing, including a heater, chairs, 5-gallon buckets, pop-up shelters, a camera, coolers, ice spears and more.
Organization. Due to their open design, it’s easy to organize your gear so everything is exactly where you want it – and easy to access in a hurry. Many anglers like to modify their sleds with further improvements – making them even more convenient and capable. (More on these mods below)
Versatility. Ice sleds aren’t only useful for ice fishing. They make great general use sleds for camping, hauling firewood, deer/goose/duck hunting, gardening, sledding and much more. Some people have even used them as makeshift rafts!
Best Overall: Shappell Jet Ice Fishing Sled
Rugged, well-made, and highly versatile, this sled from Shappell is a favorite among many ice fishermen. It’s made from rock-solid polyethylene, making it capable of being dragged over gravel, mud, and asphalt without damage.
The sled measures a respectable 54” x 24” x 10”, putting in the middle of the pack in terms of size. The sidewalls are ruggedly constructed and will hold up to a fair bit of wear and tear.
Molded runners line the sled’s bottom, increasing stability and decreasing friction on the ice. A standard sized tow rope comes included, allowing you to comfortably pull the sled behind you. Some anglers like to replace this with a chain or tow bar for towing behind a quad or snowmobile.
Also available in all-terrain camo color, the sled is more than capable of use in heavily wooded areas. Several uses even report dragging multiple deer out of the bush on these sleds without issue!
- Dimensions: 54” x 24” x 10”
- Weight: 12 pounds
- Rugged polyethylene construction will last for years
- Molded runners increase stability on the ice
- Tow rope comes included
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Extra Large Ice Sled: Flexible Flyer Winter Trek Sled
This large, heavy-duty sled is perfect when you need to maximize carrying capacity. It’s a full 12 inches longer than the Shappell Jet, giving you extra room for tackle, folding chairs, coolers, or whatever you feel like.
It’s made from tough high-density polyethylene – which can easily withstand the rough and tumble use common to ice fishing. Molded grooves on the sled bottom provide added strength and tracking stability on snow and ice.
A decent quality tow rope comes included, which you may want to replace with a tow bar or chain if you’re hauling it behind a snowmobile or ATV.
If you’re the type that just has to bring every last piece of tackle you own along with you, then this is the sled for you!
- Dimensions: 66” x 20” x 6”
- Rugged high-density polyethylene construction
- A large, heavy-duty sled can hold everything but the kitchen sink
- Also works well as a work sled, deer/elk sled, firewood sled, or garden sled
Compact Sled: Shappell Jet Sled Jr Camo
When it comes to hauling ice fishing gear – sometimes less is more. If you tend to pack a minimalist setup, then a smaller sled can shave off some weight and save you some energy.
The sled features essentially the same design as the larger Shappell Jet Sled but shrunken down into a more compact package. It has the same durable polyethylene construction, as well as molded runners and a built-in tow rope.
The Shappell Jr measures a compact 21” x 43” x 8”, providing enough room for a moderate amount of gear. It also weighs just 6 lbs, which is a good deal less than the larger model which weighs 12 lbs.
It’s also significantly cheaper than most larger models, so you’ll save a few dollars as well.
- Dimensions: 21” x 43” x 8”
- Weight: 6 pounds
- Compact and durable design
- Features molded runners and built-in tow rope
- All-terrain camo color
Also Consider: Otter Sport Sled
If you’re looking for a well-made and capable sled from a legendary ice fishing manufacturer– look no further, the Otter sport sled is the one. It’s made of 100% rotomolded high-impact polyethylene, making it durable enough for rough and tumble use.
The sled measures 53” x 22” x 8”, which is around the middle of the pack in terms of available space. The included tow rope is of excellent quality, while the reinforced outer lip and thick sidewalls provide remarkable strength and stability.
An optional universal tow hitch adapter allows you to mount the sled behind a snowmobile or ATV.
Weighing just under 12 pounds, it’s light enough to be hand-pulled but is also tough enough to handle being towed.
- Dimensions: 48” x 25” x 6”
- Weight: 11.65 pounds
- Tow rope is excellent quality
- Optional tow hitch adapter
- Works well for a wide variety of towing tasks
Also Consider: Beavertail Sport Sled
These rugged and durable sleds from hunting experts Beavertail are perfect for a multitude of tasks, including ice fishing, yard work, hunting, and much more.
They come in three sizes (small, medium, and large), so odds are there’s a perfect sized sled for your needs. The large model is one of the largest sleds on the market, measuring an impressive 64” x 29” x 11”.
The sled comes with a heavy-duty tow rope and utilizes sturdy bottom-reinforced runners for added stability and glide.
Its constructed from 100% virgin polyethylene material, which provides flexibility, balanced rigidity, and durability. Beavertail sleds have a reputation for being tough as nails and are even used by many hunters to drag deer and elk out of the bush.
These sleds cost a bit more than most other models, but their durable construction and aggressive design may be worth a closer look.
- Dimensions: Small (44” x 22” x 9”), Medium (55” x 24” x 10”), Large (64” x 29” x 11”)
- Weight: Small – 6 lbs. Medium – 12.5 lbs. Large – 17 lbs
- Tough as nails virgin polyethylene construction
- Tow rope comes included
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How to pick the best ice fishing sled – Buyers Guide
With so many different options, picking out the best ice fishing sled can seem like a confusing task.
I’ll break down the key features you need to be aware of when picking the ideal sled for your needs.
Depth refers to the measurement from the sled bottom to the lip. A deeper sled will allow you to store more gear and can be advantageous when towing behind a quad or snowmobile.
Most ice fishing sleds have 8 to 10-inch depths, which allows you to pile a healthy amount of gear inside them. If you’re using some form of tie-down, or a sled cover, then the sled depth is less important.
Weight is an important consideration anytime you need to travel long distances to your fishing hole.
If you’re pulling your sled by hand, then any extra weight will slow you down, and tire you out faster. If you’re towing your sled behind a powered vehicle, then weight is less important.
Smaller sleds typically weigh between 6 and 8 pounds, while medium to large sleds often weigh between 12 and 15 pounds. Keep in mind that weight has a direct correlation to the sleds durability. Generally, the heavier the sled, the more durable it will be.
While a basic sled will work well in most situations, there are a number of accessories that can greatly enhance the functionality and versatility of your sled.
A tow bar will allow you to hitch your sled directly to the back of your ATV or snowmobile. A good tow bar is a major improvement over trying to tow the sled by its tow rope. This can cause the sled to slam in to the back of your vehicle when you stop suddenly.
The Shappell Jet Sled Hitch is an excellent option, as its universal attachment will work with the vast majority of sleds and portable shelters. It also doesn’t require any pins or clips to attach to the sled.
A good cover will keep all your gear protected from slush, rain, and snow. It will also prevent any lose gear from being blown out of your sled in windy conditions.
The Shappell ice fishing sled travel cover makes an excellent choice, and comes in three sizes corresponding to their different sized sleds.
Wear Bars / Runners
If you frequently drag your sled over gravel, mud, or asphalt, then adding wear bars to the bottom will protect the plastic from wearing down – extending the life of your sled, and increasing its tracking ability.
The Shappell Jet Sled Wear Bars are easy to attach to any sized sled, and look pretty slick too!
Price is an important consideration whenever you’re taking ice fishing gear.
If you’ve already shelled out the dough for an electric auger, pop-up shelter, and flasher, then you probably don’t want to splurge on an ice fishing sled. Luckily you can get a well-made and capable sled for a little over 50$.
Ice Fishing Sled Modifications
If you’re the tinkering type, modifying your sled may be right up your alley. Many anglers like to add custom mods to their sleds – increasing their functional and carrying capacity.
Some common ice fishing sled mods:
- Skis: Mounting an old pair of cross-country skis (or old water skis) to the bottom of your ice fishing sled will make it much easier to glide over ice and snow. Skis decrease the amount of contact with the snow/ice, which drastically decreases friction while dragging the sled. This mod also elevates the entire sled, making it easier to access – and allowing you to use it as a makeshift seat.
- Reflective materials: While it’s a fairly basic mod, adding reflective materials to the rear of your sled will increase your visibility in low-light conditions. If your fishing in an area with plenty of ATVs or snowmobiles, then this is a no brainer.
- Bungee tie-downs: Adding some sort of bungee tie-down system will ensure all your precious gear stays securely inside your sled – and not splayed out over the ice! A common way to do this is by screwing several eye bolts into the lip of the sled and then threading a bungee cord through them.
- Rod holders: Another straightforward mod is adding several rod holders to the sled walls. This will keep your rods and reels elevated and protect them for damage during transport.
The number and type of mods you can do to your sled are pretty much limitless – you’re only limited by your creativity and know-how! If you want some more ideas, check out this forum post which dives into detail on various sled modifications.