Shanty Town

You’re likely to find a mixed bag of anglers and shanties when you head out on to the ice. Some, like me, lead a Spartan-type of life and stand out in the cold. I kid myself that the jigging motion is going to keep me warm. Other fishermen have wind-blocks, lean-to’s of sort that are wind breaks made from sheets of canvas and stakes. Then there are the single-person huts, perfect for moving and positioning. And then there are the dwellings that we all look at, particularly when Jack Frost has been nipping at our nose. Welcome to Shanty Town.

Anyone on the ice immediately recognizes Shanty Town, for they are the envy of all of us, especially on a cold day. They’re usually made from 2X4’s and sheet plywood with a door, a floor and a roof. Their sizes can be upwards of 100 square feet which means that a good-sized group of anglers can fit inside. The times I’ve been invited inside have been some of the best times indeed.

Generators supply electricity, and that’s used to power the tv’s that broadcast Bowl Games, conference play offs, or movies. Couches for sitting. Lights for early mornings, cloudy, rainy days, or late nights. Oil heaters sometimes get the nod, but propane is more commonly used, particularly because it also fuels the camp stove. Some have bunks and others have heads. These shanties are more like living rooms, and they add a different dimension to ice fishing. They are the sky boxes of the frozen lake, and sausage, home fries, and eggs are delicious.

Some ice fishermen are cynical towards these palaces. They don’t believe that the folks inside are ‘real’ ice fishermen, and that being in the elements is part of the experience. I’ve heard the same discussion from stand hunters versus still hunters and from wade fishermen versus boat fishermen. I don’t know that there is any right or wrong answer, it’s what folks prefer.

The times I’ve been invited into one of the big shanties have been a whole lot of fun. The owners have treated me to food and drink that is far different from the onion soup I warm on my Coleman stove. They’ve been kind and generous, and the experience is tremendous. Go big or go home, and get ‘em off the lake before the ice thins in the spring!

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at