Striker Predator series bibs and the Otter XT Pro X-Over Lodge flip-over-style thermal shelter won’t come cheap,
but they’ll keep you warm and toasty on the ice far longer, allowing you to catch more fish. (Photo: Ken Perrotte)
Staying warm while ice fishing for crappie
by Ken Perrotte
Whether you’re sitting on a deer stand or in a duck blind or atop a five-gallon bucket on a windswept frozen lake, nothing will chase you away faster than getting cold. Fishing is supposed to be fun, but if you are freezing, the fun is hard to find.
Winter weather can vary widely, ranging from subzero conditions to sunny, balmy above-freezing temperatures. The wind is merciless on open ice. Blocking that wind, either with a shelter or appropriate clothing is essential.
No matter the conditions, one thing is always true and that is your feet are in continual contact with the ice. So, let’s look at clothing and gear options, starting from the bottom and working our way up.
My brother, Dana Perrotte, typically ice fishes 30 days or more on the frozen reaches of Lake Champlain, Vermont, near the Canadian border. He calls Cabela’s Trans-Alaska Insulated Waterproof Pac Boots, “the warmest I’ve ever worn.”
A waterproof leather shell shields a 13 mm felt liner. This 15-inch boot has 3 inches of cold-blocking material between your feet and the ice and if that’s not enough, they have pockets inside the boot for toe-warmer heat packs. A pair weighs in at 5.8 pounds and retails for $209.99.
When I’ve hit the ice in the last couple years, Bogs Bozeman Tall Winter Boots have worked well and at $160, they’re a little easier on the wallet. The built-in handles design makes these 14-inch, waterproof boots so easy to put on. They’re made from rubber with a four-way stretch inner bootie and 7mm Neo-Tech waterproof insulation. They’re also light, weighing about 2 pounds per boot. A sturdy rubber ledge above the heel grips stairs, your other foot, or whatever you use as leverage to ease the boots off.
I tend to get cold feet, so slim-profile, stick-on toe warmers or even full, insole warmers usually underpin my socks. A variety of choices are available, and they usually sell for about a buck. Keep a pack in your pocket. HotHands Toe Warmers
Comfortable, durable socks that don’t bunch up and are crafted for warmth are essential. You won’t miss with Vermont-made Darn Tough socks. Try the Hunter Boot Heavyweight, Full-Cushion Hunting Sock, made from a merino wool blend and built with a reinforced footbed. They cost up to $33, but these socks are unconditionally guaranteed for life.
Whatever boots you choose, staying upright on the ice is critical. Slips can be painful or damaging. Here, you need a set of “ice creepers” that attach easily to your boot and give you sure-footed traction.
At $9.99 a pair of Action Traction Ice Cleats are inexpensive and easy to put on and take off. You can replace the spikes if needed.
If you want to go high-end on the creepers, look at Katoola’s Microspikes. These are more aggressive when it comes to digging into the ice, but they still fit easily over most boots. They retail for $74.95.
Catching hardwater crappie – through the ice – is a great way to collect firm, tasty fillets from winter slabs. But you need to be prepared for the worst that winter can throw at you.
A warm base layer helps keep you comfortable and dry, wicking away any sweat you might generate while you set up your ice fishing base camp or lug around an auger to drill holes.
Under Armour is a stalwart performer with the 3.0 All Season Base Layer. This 4-way stretch garment fits you like a second skin, with soft, brushed-grid interior traps – tiny pocket-like compartments – trapping air and warmth. The material, made with 81% Polyester and 19% Elastarell, wicks sweat and quickly dries. It also has a proprietary scent-control technology built in. Both the tops and leggings retail for $70 each.
Long known for their outdoor and athletic-styled gloves, Serius also offers a new, athletic-fit, base option called the Men’s Heatwave Mapped Base Layer – available in both tops and leggings. It uses the same technology as the company’s glove liners. Serius says they used body heat-map studies and merged three complementing fabrics to deliver warmth where it is most needed, including the lower back and kidneys. The top sells for $129 with the bottom at $119.
BIBS AND PARKAS
Striker’s Predator line of outerwear receives high marks from avid ice anglers, with bibs and jackets designed for rugged duty. The bibs have best-in-class 1680-denier, heavy-duty knee panels and extra seat padding. Both parka and bibs are waterproof and breathable with a 320-denier nylon Tussor shell, magnetic storm flap closures over pockets and zippers and 100 grams of Thermadex® insulation.
Accidents can happen and anglers who break through the ice are helped with something Striker calls Sureflote® Flotation Assist Technology with built-in reflective elements, features designed to help you stay afloat and get to safety.
Bibs and jacket are $279 each (look for a military and first responder discount online).
Pat Kalmerton, a Wisconsin guide spends lots of time on the ice. He’s a believer in the Clam Ascent float bibs and parka. This suit also has baffled, built-in buoyancy assistance and reflective elements (neither suit is a Coast Guard personal flotation device). Both the parka and bibs are crafted with a 300-denier waterproof, windproof, breathable shell. The parka has a removable and wearable fleece liner while the bibs have a 150-gram, removable Thinsulate liner. The front zipper is covered by a magnetic storm flap and both pieces have waterproof cellphone pockets. Molded knee padding helps anglers stay comfortable when kneeling on ice or navigating setup and fishing chores. The bibs and parka are $259.99 each.
When conditions dictate you don’t want to be out on open ice, a portable, well-crafted shelter can be indispensable. Bring along a favorite, small portable propane heater and you can stay toasty warm while the weather howls outside.
Anglers will love the portability of the 124-pound Otter XT Pro X-Over Lodge flip-over-style thermal shelter. It tows easily on a sled or transports in the back of a truck. One person can quickly set it up. You simply flip it over for ready cover. Once set up, anglers can enter or exit via traditional zippered doors. A smaller, rear- access door lets you transfer gear without entering the shelter. With 30-square-feet of space, it can handle three anglers, although two, plus gear is ideal. It includes an aluminum seat rail with two, top-mounted, padded, swivel seats. The triple-layered, insulated 1,200-denier shell blocks wind and holds in heat. This top-of-the-line shelters retails for $1,199.
A much less expensive option ($399.99) n inexpensive option is Clam’s C-360 Thermal Hub shelter. This lightweight shelter, just 36 pounds, is a bit like a traditional hub-style, 4-sided hunting blind. It will shelter 2-3 anglers. It’s made from 600-denier fabric and has an insulated, thermal lining to retain heat. It features an oversized skirt for snow banking, thick corner pockets, and anchors and tie ropes.
Besides the heavy stuff, you’ll need a few other things on the ice to help you stay warm. Gloves, of course, are a must on most days. Fish Monkey, Nomad and many other companies make gloves that have you covered from freezing cold to mild conditions. A windproof balaclava or gaiter, like Fish Monkey’s Yeti Fleece model or Nomad’s Durawool product, is also helpful, especially when running to fishing spots on ATVs or snow machines.
Add up these items, and a few we didn’t mention, and it would be easy to spend $1,500 to $2,000 to keep yourself warm on the ice. Whether it is worth that to you is a matter of personal choice – and perhaps a matter of how often you venture out into bitter conditions.
On the other hand, remember Christmas is coming up and maybe some of these toasty items might be good to add to your “Santa Wish List.”
Ken Perrotte is a veteran outdoor writer from King George, Virginia. He is the current President of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. Check out more of his work and past product reviews at www.outdoorsrambler.com.