Fatbike Ice Fishing and How to Do It

For the last couple of winters I've spent some time out on the lakes riding my fatbike and doing so gave me the idea to combine two things I enjoy, cycling and ice fishing.  This winter I finally gathered together the gear and did it.  Through trial and error, some advice from my pro fisherman friend and input from the ice fishing community on social media, I was able to put together some efficient and effective methods for going after fish during hardwater season.  In this article I will go over some of the gear needed, methods used and a few tips and tricks for a successful and fun outing.

Ice Fishing Gear

I was in need of some new ice fishing gear and a fishing license so I did a little shopping at the start of the season.  I picked up a couple of 24" light action rods for jigging panfish and old school wood tip ups for northern pike.  To protect the rods during transport in a backpack or bucket I covered them with with some inexpensive rod sleeves.

I had an old Strikemaster Mora auger but wanted something a little more compact that I could also use with my cordless drill.  The Nero Mini Compact Ice Auger was the perfect choice.  With the turn of a wing nut it could be opened fully or folded in half measuring only 25 inches long. The shaft can also be extended to 53 and 61 inches for drilling through thicker ice.  The blades are so sharp I could even drill a whole while sitting in my folding chair. Punching a couple of holes to start fishing took barely any time at all.  A little slush removal with an ice scoop and I'm ready to fish.

For carrying minnows I use a small cooler or bucket with a battery operated bubbler to keep them lively and to circulate the water to prevent ice from forming.  For short trips when panfishing I will bring some crappie minnows in a 20 oz. Bait Up container.  Wax worms are stored in a bait puck that I keep in my pocket to keep them from freezing and to provide quick access if I need to re-bait my hook.

A small jig box with tackle and a clip on ice fishing depth finder round out my ice gear.  Next winter I plan on purchasing a flasher fish/depth finder but for this season the clip on worked great for finding the depth and only cost $2.29 for a two-pack.

In between ice fishing trips I stored my crappie and sucker minnows in a five gallon bucket equipped with an aquarium pump in the garage.  This meant I always had live minnows when I was ready to go fishing again.  I would only take what I thought I would need for the time spent fishing and leave the rest behind.  Doing this saved a lot of money on bait and trips to the bait store.

Bike Gear

Besides the fatbike, there is some bike gear that is needed for moving around on the lakes.  Some of these I already had while the rest was picked up at my local hardware store.

Until there is packable snow there will be glare ice and studded tires are a must to keep the bike upright and in control.  A commuter backpack comes in handy for the times I want to travel light.

For longer outings when I need to bring more gear I will pull a sled or Smitty sled loaded up and strapped down to secure the load.  To pull these sleds a harness will be needed with quick connect carabiners.  I made my harness with 3/8" synthetic rope pulled through 1/2" pvc pipe.  The length I used was 5' so the sled would not pull too close behind my rear wheel.  The pvc pipe acts as a stiffener for the rope so if I stopped suddenly my sled would also instead of sliding into my back tire.  This pvc/rope combination should be crossed (secured with a zip tie) as seen in the picture for better stability and trailing while turning.  To give the harness the necessary clearance to keep it from rubbing on my tire I secured it to a clamp-on style back rack since my carbon frame has no rack mounts.


I stay warm in my winter cycling apparel on the ride out to my fishing spot but that changes quickly once I stop moving.  What works while riding will leave me cold while fishing.  This is why I bring extra clothing and boots, especially on colder days or if there is wind.  In my sled or backpack I'll have a pair of waterproof gloves and a mid-layer or two to give me some extra insulation while tending to my lines.  I also keep a hand towel close by to dry my hands after handling bait and fish.  Having the extra clothing really helps extend the amount of time I can spend out on the ice before getting cold and heading back.


The type of fish I wanted to catch, length of time I would spend on the ice, amount of gear needed and ice/snow conditions would be the main factors that would determine which method I would use to roll out onto the ice.  I came up with three ways that worked well for what I wanted to accomplish.

For short trips or when I wanted to travel light and get in a ride, I would go backpack-style. I use a Banjo Brothers Large Commuter Backpack because it's the perfect size to fit all the gear I need, including my auger.  This setup was perfect for getting in a little morning bite before work or a 12 mile bike ride with some fishing at potential hotspots along the way.

Early in the season there isn't as much snow cover so pulling a sled is my first choice when not traveling light.  I purchased a tub-style sled from a hardware store (a small ice fishing sled such as a Shappell Jet Sled Jr. will also work) and equipped it with the necessary hardware to pull it behind my bike.  The sled was small enough so it was lightweight but large enough to carry my fishing gear, bait bucket and extra clothing.  With this setup I am able to move around the lake easily to find where the fish are biting.

Smitty sled-style
When hauling heavier gear or rolling deeper snow cover I strap my sled to a Smitty Sled I made with some scrap lumber, a pair of old downhill skis I got for $7 at Savers and some hardware to put it all together.  The Smitty Sled makes it much easier to pull my gear out onto the lake than just a sled alone.  It was pretty simple to make and there are a ton of pictures and plans online for making your own.

Tips & Tricks

Getting around on the lakes early in the season is pretty easy due to light or non-existent snow cover but studded tires are a must.  As the season moves on and snow cover is deeper and a little packed one can get by pretty easily without studs.

Anyone who has ridden a fatbike in deep snow knows how tough it can be.  As the ice fishing season rolls on snow cover on lakes can make it a little more challenging.  To keep moving fast and easy I opt to follow the ice roads and snowmobile trails made by other fisherman.  These roads and trails tend to be more hard packed and usually lead to some good fishing spots too.

For some shelter from the wind while fishing, a portable flip-over ice shelter like the Clam Fish Trap can be used.  I wanted something a little more lightweight and portable so I constructed a frame from 3/4" pvc pipe that was bolted onto the sled and could be assembled in minutes.  A medium weight plastic tarp could then be draped over it and secured with spring clamps.  Now I had an effective windbreak that would allow me to fish longer before feeling winter's chill.  Using a bucket or milk crate in the sled to sit on, I was ready to fish.

Fishing Apps

Ice Report
I put my smartphone (Android) to work during the season using a couple of apps that are well known among ice fishermen.  The first is a free app called Ice Report and is available for IOS and Android.  I don't like going out on the lakes until there is at least 4 inches or more of ice and Ice Report was very useful during the early season.  I could get ice thickness reports from other fishermen that were out there in the last day or two.  On the bike I could cover a lot of distance on the lake so I fished multiple areas and uploaded my own reports for other fishermen.

Boating HD by Navionics
The second app is Boating HD Marine & Lakes by Navionics and is available for both IOS and Android. It is a free app download that comes with basic features and a two-week trial of the subscription to check out all the maps including Nautical Chart, Sonar Chart, Chart Updates and Community Edits from millions of Boating HD app users.  I played around with the app during this trial period and liked it so much that I purchased a 1-year subscription of their "USA" map for $14.99.

The app was extremely useful for finding the depth contours of lakes to get to the spots I knew would contain fish.  It would tell me the approximate depth of the water before even drilling a hole in the ice.  I could plot my tracks and add waypoints but the feature I used most was adding markers for fishing hotspots and potential areas that I could come back to later and check out.  The app was definitely a big help out on the ice and I plan on continuing to use it for some shoreline bikefishing during the rest of the year.

Ice Safety

Ice safety is a priority when I roll out onto any lake.  This is why I carry a pair of ice picks worn on my shoulders in the event I go through the ice.  With these I will be able to pull myself out of the water much easier than without.  I always let someone know where I am going and when I expect to be done, just in case.  A keen eye on the ice as I ride out helps me avoid pressure ridges and water flows where ice thickness may be questionable.

In Conclusion

I had a lot of fun ice fishing by fatbike this winter.  I was able to move quickly around on the lakes to find where the fish were biting while carrying all my gear.  I did get a lot of strange looks from ice fishermen and spoke with a few others that thought it was a really great idea that they would consider doing themselves.  If you already have a fatbike it's just a matter of getting a little bit of ice fishing gear and you're ready to go.

This article was written after the ice fishing season so getting out there now isn't an option but I recommend entertaining the idea next winter.  I learned a lot during my first season trying this and wanted to share it with others and who knows, maybe we'll see a lot more fatbikes out on the ice in the future.

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