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
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!
Top 5 Ice Fishing Sleds
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.
I’ve loved being in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I grew up fishing, canoeing, and camping throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It’s what lead me to start this site and share my passions for fishing, diving, kayaking and more. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or (preferably!) preparing for my next outdoor adventure.