The snowmobile versus ATV debate for ice fishing comes up every season and it’s not an argument that will be settled anytime soon. A few years ago I decided to buy a machine for ice fishing because I’m just not comfortable with driving my truck on the ice. I will take the truck when the ice is three feet thick and there is practically a road out to the spot but when it comes to early season or exploring the lake a dedicated ice machine can’t be beat.
I chose the ATV for its all season versatility. I can use it to hunt in the fall, ice fish all winters and trail ride or do chores the rest of the year. Yes there are days, usually late in the season, when the snow or slush is too deep and the ATV just can’t cut it. But the fact remains that with an ATV I have had more opportunities to fish earlier in the season and further out than my feet or my truck could take me.
After using it for three seasons I am pretty satisfied with its performance. I think the aggressive tires and larger engine move the quad pretty well when the snow is deep. Once the snow level reaches the frame the going gets tough, I’ve often burnt an entire tank of gas in a day. That being said the snow depth is only a problem after a big storm. Once it is blow around the lake and begins to pack down I am able to travel around again.
I love all the rack space for mounting my gear to the ATV. I first started pulling a flip-over with all my equipment in it but I found out quickly that the tires throw the snow on top and fill the sleigh up pretty quickly. Also the sleigh bounces around over heaves and drifts and that can damage things in a hurry. So with my gear mounted on a rack the suspension soaks up the bumps and nothing is covered in snow. I use the Koplin stronghold auger mount to carry the auger. It is pretty convenient because the auger boot can be removed quickly and without tools. The mount also gets the auger up off the rack so it doesn’t actually take up a lot of space. I would like to add a cover for the auger powerhead for putting on a lot of miles because the tires throw snow up and the auger can get covered in snow and slush. My 8” auger flight bounces in the tube but the powerhead remains secured and hasn’t even been scratched, I might add some foam to the tube to secure the auger flighting in the future. My hub shelter, Eskimo tripod chair, rods and ice scoop are strapped to the front rack. The Plano storage trunk holds hooks, flasher, and misc tools or bait. I usually have enough space to strap down my lunch cooler and a bucket beside it.
If, like me, you can only own one ice machine I think the ATV is the way to go. Yes it can be limited at times but I feel it’s the best option for our conditions and I have been able to go fishing more often because I have it.