When you look at it on paper, ice fishing sounds a little crazy, right? You’re walking out or driving out on a frozen lake with a bunch of gear, drilling some holes with an auger, and then basically sitting out on a block of ice for hours.
But if you love ice fishing, it’s not crazy at all, especially if you’ve experienced the thrill of a good bite and a bucket full of fish to bring home.
However, a good bite doesn’t mean anything if you’re too cold to bring the fish inside, or if you’ve already left the lake because you weren’t able to stay warm.
Staying warm while ice fishing helps you catch more fish because you can fish for longer…and who doesn’t want that?!
How to Keep Warm While Ice Fishing
Here are the best ways to keep warm while ice fishing so you can not only stay warm yourself but also maybe convince a few prospective ice anglers to join.
1. Wear Layers
Layers are the key to staying warm in just about any situation, but especially when ice fishing. You’re going outside in cold weather, but you’re also doing some activities that generate a lot of body heat.
Dragging your ice fishing gear out to your spot takes a lot of effort, as does drilling holes. But sitting on a bucket waiting for the fish to bite doesn’t really generate body heat at all.
By wearing multiple layers of clothing, you’ll be able to take off or put on clothing as necessary and avoid getting overheated. The last thing you want is to sweat and have that cool on your body, making you even colder.
In terms of layers, it’s best to start with a base layer that’s close to your skin and made of moisture-wicking material, like blended synthetic long underwear.
Your middle layer should be the layer that gives you warmth, like fleece or another midweight material. And finally, your outer layer should be windproof and waterproof to keep you dry and protected from the elements.
If you’re planning to wear all of this when you’re out on the ice, be sure to wait to fully suit up until you reach the lake. That way you won’t get all hot and sweaty in the truck and then have the sweat chill off when you step outside.
2. Protect Your Feet and Face
You’ll get cold quickly if you don’t properly protect your feet and face and keep them warm. A quality pair of waterproof insulated boots is worth the investment when you go ice fishing.
When you’re walking out on a frozen lake, you’ll mostly be trudging through snow and may step in a puddle or two. (Or worse, you won’t be paying attention and your foot will go down in a hole.)
Waterproof insulated boots will help keep your feet dry and warm, especially if you have a pair or two of wool or wool blend socks underneath.
As for your head, you’ll want to wear a hat that covers your head and ears to help you stay warm, but don’t forget about your face, too.
Goggles or sunglasses will help you see better and protect your eyes as you drill holes or sit in the wind, and a face mask or balaclava will help prevent the rosy cheeks of windburn.
3. Drink Water and Eat Well
Yes, it’s tempting to chug a beer to warm up your insides, but in the long run, water is a better bet for keeping you hydrated and safe.
Just make sure to answer the call of nature as needed – holding it will only make you colder, as your body will need to expend extra effort to keep the liquid warm inside your body.
As for eating while ice fishing, snacks will help keep your body’s metabolism going as you’re out on the ice. Beef jerky, granola, and nuts are all great options for high-protein snacks. A cup of warm soup can hit the spot sometimes, too.
4. Keep Moving
Obviously, if you’re on a hole where the fish are biting like crazy, it’s probably not in your best interest to move. But if you’re in a dud of a spot, don’t be afraid to pack up and move somewhere else.
The effort of dragging your gear will warm you up, and the exertion necessary for drilling holes will get your internal furnace going again. Just be sure to add or remove layers as needed so you don’t have sweat cooling your skin.
5. Use an Ice Shack
These previous tips for keeping warm while ice fishing are great for any situation, but if you’re planning to stay out for longer and/or in truly frigid temps, you’ll want to invest in a quality ice shack.
Ice shacks are helpful because they protect you from the outside elements. Got a little breeze outside? Or maybe it’s snowing? This isn’t a problem when you’re inside your cozy ice shack.
The other huge benefit of using an ice shack is that you can use a portable propane heater to easily warm your space and stay comfortable, even in your normal clothes.
How to Keep Your Ice Shack Warm
A portable propane heater is an excellent way to keep your ice shack warm. It provides a comfortable and stable warmth inside your ice shack, allowing you to stay on a good bite even longer.
This is especially helpful if you’re bringing others with you that may not be as excited as you are about a good bite…like your kids. They’ll be more likely to enjoy the time inside the ice shack if they’re cozy and warm.
An indoor propane heater is also helpful for ice fishing since you won’t have to wear gloves while fishing inside your shack.
Your hands can quickly get cold, stiff, and wet from handling your gear, line, and tackle, not to mention the fish themselves. With a portable propane heater, your hands can stay warm, limber, and dry.
The best portable propane heaters are lightweight and easy to transport along with the rest of your gear. You’ll also need to make sure that the portable propane heater that you’re using has adequate safety features.
Are Propane Heaters Safe in an Ice Fishing House?
Yes, propane heaters are safe in an ice fishing house if you take a few precautions.
The biggest problem to watch for when using a portable propane heater inside is a lack of oxygen since the propane heater needs to burn up oxygen to adequately work.
Thankfully, portable propane heaters nowadays have sensors built in that help you use them more safely. Look for a portable propane heater that’s rated for use both indoors and outdoors and be sure it has a low oxygen sensor.
The low oxygen sensor is one part of the equation – proper airflow is the other. Most ice fishing houses have vents inside that you can open to allow for fresh air to flow through and bring new oxygen into the space.
These vents also prevent condensation from building up inside, meaning your ice fishing house will stay dry and warm, not wet and cold.
You’ll also want to be sure you’re using an indoor propane heater that has an accidental tip-over switch, so it automatically stops instead of accidentally starting something inside your ice shack on fire.
How Much Area Can a Portable Gas Heater Warm Up?
A portable gas heater can warm up a surprising amount of space, depending on the BTUs it gives out. You can expect a model that gives out up to 9,000 BTUs to keep a space of around 250 – 300 square feet warm.
Most portable ice fishing shelters only have an interior area of 30 – 50 square feet, so a portable gas heater can easily warm up your space inside without a lot of effort.
If you have a larger, permanent ice house, you’ll probably want to opt for a portable propane heater that gives out more BTUs with a longer runtime.
An indoor propane heater with a rating of 18,000 BTUs should be able to keep a space of 700 – 1,000 square feet warm.
How Long Does the Propane Last in a Portable Heater?
The length of time that propane lasts in a portable heater depends on the size of the heater, the size of the propane cylinder or tank you have connected to it, and the level at which you’re running the heater.
For an indoor propane heater rated for 9,000 BTUs, you can expect a 1-lb. propane cylinder to last around 2.5 – 3 hours on high and 5.5 – 6 hours on low. That’s assuming you’ll keep it running full-time.
When using a heater portable propane for ice fishing, you’ll find that it will quickly heat up your space, so you’ll most likely be turning it off and on as needed rather than running it straight through.
Heat Hog Portable Propane Heater – Best Ice Fishing Heater
The Heat Hog Portable Propane Heater is a great ice fishing heater that helps you stay warm as you chase the winter bite.
Adjustable Heat Angle
Its 30° adjustable heat angle with tilting features lets you direct the heat to where you need it most – not just your feet. If your feet are nice and cozy, just tilt this portable propane heater up a bit to warm up the rest of you, too.
Wider Heat Area
This small propane heater has a curved plaque technology that gives you a wider range of heat dispersal, so you don’t have to stand directly in front of it.
Choose from two different sizes (18,000 BTU or 9,000 BTU), depending on the heat output you need. So besides keeping yourself warm, you’ll also be able to keep your gear and buddies who are sharing the space with you warm.
Runs on Propane – No Electricity Needed
This portable propane heater is safe and easy to use both indoors and outdoors. It runs on 1-lb. propane cylinders and has piezo ignition, so there’s no electricity required.
Propane cylinders are easy to purchase and refill at most gas stations, hardware stores, and home improvement stores.
And this small propane heater doesn’t just turn on or off. There’s a heat settings dial that allows you to adjust the temperature to what makes you the most comfortable.
This is especially helpful when cooler temperatures outside affect how much heat needs to be produced inside.
Propane Fuel Warming Dock
You’ll find that the warming dock keeps the propane fuel warm, making sure you get the most BTUs out of each tank. This saves you the time and hassle of having to refill your propane tanks more frequently.
Easy to Transport
When you’re ready to pack up your gear and move to a different spot on the lake, the heavy-duty handle and lightweight body make it easy to transport.
Still, it’s durable enough for all of the jostling around that can take place when running across a lake.
And since the Heat Hog Portable Propane Heater runs on propane, you won’t have to drag a generator with you or hook it up to your truck.
Easy to Store
If you’re tight on space, this small portable propane heater is a great fit for your ice shack. It doesn’t take up a lot of space, and the portable design allows you to move it out of the way easily and quickly.
Even though the Heat Hog is small and portable, it’s still able to warm up your ice shack quickly and easily.
As mentioned previously, it’s very important to take safety precautions in your ice shack. The Heat Hog Portable Propane Heater has a safety tip-over switch that automatically shuts it off in case it gets knocked over.
Its rugged safety guard keeps unwanted things from coming into the small propane heater while still letting the warm air come out.
There’s also a low oxygen safety shut-off to give you peace of mind as you fish.
It may sound crazy to walk out or drive out on the ice, drill a bunch of holes, and have fun fishing on the ice, but those who “get it” know that it can be one of the best ways to spend a winter day.
By using these ways to keep warm while ice fishing, you’ll be able to spend even more time outside chasing the bite while still staying cozy and comfortable.