No Sled

     I don't use a sled for ice fishing.  First off I don't carry a lot of gear when I go ice fishing, I sold off my vexilar, camera, gas auger, and shanty years ago.  Just didn't need it.  All that stuff just slowed me down when I was trying to move to find the fish.  Never been one of those drill a hole and let the fish come to me kind of guys.  So what do I use to take out my bucket and hand auger?
Barrel and Harness
     A harness, a barrel harness.  As a lot of people know I am a shorebound angler.  I am also an avid canoe and kayaker.  Why not just fish from the canoe and kayak?  Well most of the time when I want to go fishing I have no interest in loading up the canoe.  For that matter I don't really enjoy unloading the kayak either.  I like to paddle, just don't like all the prep.  So now that I have wandered off topic, what is a barrel harness?  When canoeing you need a waterproof container to store food or clothes in.  The barrel seals up water tight and takes one hell of a beating.  To make it easier to carry the barrel on portages several manufacturers make a special harness.  I use the NRS Paragon harness, that I bought locally at Rutabaga Paddle Sports.  The cost is similar to the cost of a decent ice fishing sled.  The difference is I get use out of the harness system year round.
Ice Bucket and Harness
     The NRS Paragon Pack is the most versatile packing system I have ever used.  It has padded shoulder and back straps, and a lumbar support suspension system.  It is really comfortable to carry and fully adjustable.  The expandable straps adjust for items up to 50 inches in circumference.  This harness can adjust to hold everything from the barrel, ice bucket, pelican cases, and dry bags.  The side pockets on the waist belt make carrying small items convenient.  Plenty of room for a snack, smokes, or chapstick.  Another nice feature is that the attachment points for canoe/kayak paddles work wonderful for holding my hand auger.  It is reinforced at all the common wear points (bottom, sides, straps).  Since this pack is designed for canoeing it doesn't retain water and dries quickly which is handy when dealing ice and slush.  The designers over at NRS have always made nice products.  After 2 years of constant use I have had no issues with it what so ever.
     So as you can see, with the use of this pack I have no need for a sled anymore.  I can walk out on the ice with my hands free.  I can also hop from hole to hole with all my gear.  No walking back to move my stuff when I find a hot hole.  The weight is comfortably positioned on my back so I am not bothered with wrist strain from dragging a heavy sled across the lake.  This system works well for me, but I am a bit of a minimalist when out on the ice.
Heading out on the ice

     Tight Lines.


Ice Rod Bucket Holder

     I like to keep things simple on the ice.  It is already cold and I don't need anything overly complicated when I am out there.  Now as we all know, occasionally you need to set down a rod.  Maybe you want to tie another jig on the line?  Perhaps you need to put on another layer?  You may even be jigging with one rod and want to deadstick a second rod because the bite is slow?  So what do you use if you don't want to set that rod on the ice?  What about a rod holder that fits easily on the side of your bucket?
Bucket Rod Holder, This one is made by HT Enterprises.
     I found this rod holder at my local tackle shop.  They are easy to rig up, and hold the rod securely.  You can even bend them since they're made of a simple metal wire.  I have been using my rod holder for 3 seasons now and find that it is the most commonly used item I own when ice fishing (besides the ice rod).  I like to use this rod holder as a second set of hands.  I can set the rod in it when I am tying on a different lure.  I also use it when trout fishing the harbor with my baitrunner reel.  Open the rear drag switch, set the rod in the holder, and just sit down.  Since the rod is right below me on the bucket, when the fish takes the spawn sac the reel starts to click.  All I have to do is pick up the rod and set the hook.  No need for an automatic fisherman.  Another handy way to use this rod holder is to drill 2 holes in the ice.  One for jigging and one for deadsticking next to the bucket.  Now I can sit and jig for active fish, while still having a chance at the less active fish.  With the rod right next to me on my bucket, my peripheral vision can pick up the movement from the spring bobber on the deadstick rod.  It allows me to stay focused on jigging with out having to worry that I won't see the deadstick rod in time to keep it from going the down the hole.
     Give this handy little rod holder a try.  They are really inexpensive, sturdy, and well designed.  I think you will find lots of little uses for these rod holders.  And if you see this sticker covered bucket when your out, feel free to stop over and say hello.
     Tight Lines.