If you do a lot of ice fishing, you will eventually have a day when your lake holds a layer of water on top of the ice. Usually, this only happens close to the edge of the lake and you can reach dryer ice after sloshing through some surface water.
The question is, even though your boots may keep you dry in a few inches of water, will your ice fishing sled float and prevent your gear from getting wet? You don’t want to risk getting your bait, auger motor, or electronics wet.
If you have a solid plastic ice fishing sled, it can float a light load of gear on the water. It’s important not to overload the sled with too much weight. You should also remember that the sled may tip over if the weight is loaded too much to one side or the other. Larger sleds can float with more weight in them than smaller sleds can.
This article will answer some of the questions you might have about different types of sleds and how they float. It will help you find what you need to know to keep your stuff dry on the lake.
What are Ice Fishing Sleds Made of?
These days, the most common type of ice sled is a single piece of plastic that works like a big, shallow bucket.
Ice sleds have a curved nose that allows them to climb over small bumps, and they usually have a rope attached to the front for pulling (or towing behind a vehicle).
Some of the most common brands of this style are Otter Wild Sled and the Shappell Jet Sled , and each brand offers a range of sizes. Ice fishing sleds are usually easy to find in sporting goods stores.
Since these sleds are made of a single piece of plastic, they usually won’t let water in unless it spills over the sides. That’s what allows them to float, at least in the right conditions.
If you have a different style of ice fishing sled, such as a homemade sled made with skis or pipes attached to a wooden box, it probably will not float at all.
Will an Ice Fishing Sled Float?
Most one-piece plastic ice fishing sleds will float when they are empty. But since the purpose of an ice sled is to carry your heavy gear to your fishing spot, it’s usually not going to be empty.
Keeping your sled afloat on the water is a matter of distributing the weight evenly in the sled and knowing your limits for how much gear you should bring with you.
How to Properly Load an Ice Fishing Sled?
When it comes to loading your gear into an ice fishing sled, it’s all about distributing the weight evenly. If you’ve ever pulled one of these sleds on a bumpy trail or down a slope to get onto the lake, you know that they can be tippy. This effect is multiplied when you try to float the sled on water.
Think of the sled in terms of how much weight is in the front, back, left, and right sides. Try to spread it out as evenly as you can.
My go-to method is to put the auger lengthwise in the center of the sled, since it is usually the heaviest item. Then I try to have a five-gallon bucket of gear on each side of it so the weight is roughly even.
If you are fishing with an ice shack or other structure, it will probably also be quite heavy and you need to offset its weight with other items.
If you know you’re going to be floating the sled, you might want to test the balance by pushing down on the walls of the sled while it’s on the ground. If you can easily tip it on any side, your weight is uneven and you should move some items around.
How Much Gear Can I Put in an Ice Fishing sled?
There’s no fixed rule for just how much weight you can put in your ice fishing sled because larger sleds can support more gear than smaller sleds.
When it comes to floating items, the science in play is water displacement: if the items in the sled weigh more than the water the sled is displacing, it will sink.
The best time to ask this question is before you buy the sled. How much gear do you like to use when you go ice fishing? You might just use an 8-pound chipper bar to break your holes, or you might use a gas auger that weighs more than double that. Electronics and shelters add weight quickly. If you know you like to bring a lot of heavy gear, buy a large sled that can support the weight.
If you have a smaller sled and you worry about it carrying your gear, you might just need to pick some items to leave behind. It’s not recommended to carry ice fishing gear on your back because it can affect your balance and make it harder to swim out if you ever fall through the ice.
Does an Otter Sled Float on Water?
Otter brand ice fishing sleds that are constructed from one piece of plastic will float on water. You still need to be careful about packing your gear for a good weight distribution so the sled does not tip over on the water.
Keep in mind that accessories added to the sled, such as a tow hitch or gliding rails, will make the sled itself heavier and therefore more likely to sink.
Does a Jet Sled Float on Water?
Shappell Jet Sleds are another solid plastic sled that will float on water. You just have to be careful not to overload them with too much weight. How much gear you can float in your sled depends most of all on what size Jet Sled you buy.
Keep in mind that if your Jet Sled has somehow become worn out or damaged, water may leak in through cracks in the plastic. This is a risk with any sled, so you just need to be careful on rocks and other rough surfaces.