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More ice house modifications

Big Ick

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I wasn’t going to post this until I was completed with my project, but I’m finally beginning to realize that I’ll never be done. I’ll always be tweaking my Otter fish house, so I decided I’d show people what I’ve done/plan to do, and see what they think.

My first modification was pretty standard and I’m sure most everyone has already done it to their own fish house. It simply consists of placing a U-bolt on the rear of the sled so other sleds can be hitched together. This is easy to do and works nice on the lake when 2 or 3 sleds are pulled out with a single wheeler or snowmobile.

My next modification was to create a seating system. I don’t own a permanent ice shack, and probably won’t for a long, long time, so the seat design had to allow for some sort of sleeping arrangement too.


The 2x4’s aren’t as elegant a solution as say, some sort of aluminum ball-bearing track, but it works nonetheless. The seats are mounted on a plate that swivels. The plate is mounted on a short length of 2x4, which slides back and forth between the 2x4’s mounted on the sled. The two aluminum strips are used to fix the seat to a desired position. They’re tightened down by wing nuts. The seats can easily be removed and stored away when I want to set the sled up for sleeping. I simply place a plywood sheet over the top of the 2x4’s. It isn’t like a nice cot, but it’s better than sleeping in a chair (I’ve done that way too much). The seats I have are only moderately comfortable, but the price was right!

The third modification was to build a floor for the house. When I sleep in my portable, I feel that a floor is a must. I also like the floor for when I fish out of a spear hole because I like kneeling next to the hole and a floor is nice (I know, I’m a wimp). When I do use the floor, it does require more work to move and fish another spot, but it’s peanuts compared to cutting out a new spear hole. The floor is split into 3 sections. When I’m angling through auger holes, I’ll have all 3 section of the floor folder out. When I have a spear hole cut out, I’ll only fold out 2 section of the floor.

The next modification was to fix the way the canvas was attached to the sled. I bought my Otter before the new Trim-Lock System, so I was stuck with those plastic pushpin things. It didn’t take long for me to have one of them pull out and another pull through the canvas.


As you can see, I fixed this by going to Fleet Farm, buying a bunch ¼” hardware, and went overboard on attaching the canvas to the sled. Since the hardware was fairly cheap, I figured more bolts wouldn’t hurt. Now there’s now way the canvas will separate from the sled and the house may even hold heat a little better now too.

My fifth modification was by far the most time consuming and expensive. I got an itch to wire the house for 12V DC power, complete with rocker switches, fuses, outlets, and lights. Everything came together in the end, but I ran into a few troublesome spots that I really didn’t think through well enough (I’ve always been one to dive into something before thinking it through). The picture below shows what I call the control box. I made this out of a cutting board (got at Target). There are 5 rocker switches (front lights, top lights, rear lights, lighter plug, and a special 7.2V outlet) and 3 fuses (all lights, lighter plug, and 7.2V outlet) in the control box. I put epoxy in the joints of the control box to try and make it waterproof, but being 100% waterproof isn’t a necessity. I agree that this may all be overkill, but it was time I put my degree to use! There are 3 power outlets (each has 2 female plugs) mounted on support poles of the house. All of the outlet plugs have 12 V DC power connected to them except for one of the plugs on the top support pole. This plug is connected to 7.2 V DC (gonna be used for next years mods). The wiring between the control box and the outlets is run through the poles. This is where I really didn’t think things through. The first hurdle was the locking pin that sits inside the some of the support poles. Fortunately, I was only using 2-conducted shielded cable and was able to slide the cable alongside the locking pin. My Otter has the round tubing (the newer ones have square tubing) and the fit was tight. I imagine the square tubing would be as tight a fit, but I have looked into it. The second hurdle was getting the wire out of the tubing and over to the control box. I also needed to keep in mind that the wire would need to easily move in and out of the tubing while I was setting up or taking down the house. I drilled and sanded a hole in the outer support pole for the wire to slide in and out of. On the inner support pole, I cut a slit about 3/8” wide and 4” long up from the bottom of the pole. This would allow the cable travel up the inner pole enough for the inner pole to be completely seated into the outer pole. I sanded everything down and hopefully the repeated sliding of the poles won’t wear the shielding on the cable too thin. From what I can tell right now, the cables slide in and out of the poles pretty well. I haven’t noticed the cables catching on any of the poles yet, but that can all change once the house is used out on the ice.


I choose to use LED’s for the lighting because they don’t draw too much power and are still fairly bright. I took the easy way out on this one and bought LED tubes that were already assembled. I have 2 12” tubes, 2 8” tubes and a single 18” tube. These give off more than enough light to illuminate the house. I decided to beef up the battery (as compared to the standard Vex/Marcum batteries) and went with a 20 Ah sealed lead acid one. I mounted a little ledge for the battery to sit on and it’s held in place with a Velcro strap. The battery is connected to the control box by using simple alligator clips. As it is, only the 12V input is connected to the control box. The 7.2V input will be connected at a later time using a DC-DC buck converter. But anyways… The battery weighs something like 20 pounds. It’s at this point that I’m starting to thing that this house isn’t as portable as it once was!


The next modification was for rod storage. I have a couple of the Ready Rig bags, but I wanted a storage system for when I was fishing in the house. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to dig a rod out of the Ready Rig, especially when a couple rods are in a bag, when the Walleyes are on a feeding binge. Another trip to Fleet Farm and a few dollars later, I had my solution.


I used some Oak scrap I had laying around (pretty nice wood to waste here, huh?), and bought some Aluminum to make the mounting brackets for the rod holders. These rod holders were a little more expensive than others, but I really wanted something that would hold my rods snug. The positioning of the rod holder doesn’t get in the way of the seats and should hopefully protect the rods well when the sled is being pulled. The only drawback of the rod holders is that the rod length is limited to the width of the sled. I don’t like fishing with a long ice rod (sight fishing through a spear hole a lot), I’m not too concerned that it’ll become an issue. For my tip-ups, I simply mounted a tip-up tote onto the house. I don’t fish tip-ups all that often, so it wasn’t as important to store them in a way that would allow for quick access.

Some of the future modifications I have in mind include creating a storage box/shelf for the front of the sled, tip-up storage, and several quick access rod holders. I’d like to be able store the lights, Vexilar, and other breakables in a compartment lined with packaging foam in the little space at the front of the sled. I want the quick access rod holders (not the rod storage system I talked about earlier) so I can easily and quickly change rods while I’m jigging. Too many times I’ve had fish cruise by my bait and I’ve been too lazy or too slow in getting something else down to try and entice a bite.

By now, you’re probably thinking, “Geez, all the floors, plywood beds, batteries, and what have you…that kinda defeats the idea of a portable house, doesn’t it?“ I would agree to a point. When I do bring everything out with me, I need to use a second otter sled. But I’ve tried to make the impact of the modifications to the house minimal. By this I mean, I didn’t want to add too much weight or chunkiness’ to the house that I couldn’t leave at home. The floor and bed modifications are the only ones that really make using the house more difficult. I can always leave those home, so I’m happy with the way the house performs. It still maintains the original portability, but it also has some of the comforts of a permanent shack too. I hope this has given some of you ideas for your own houses and maybe you have some suggestions for mine too! I bet there’s one thing that you’re still wondering about or maybe you smart ones have already figured it out…what is the 7.2V power used for?

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Heck yeah that is SWEET! It must light up real well. I can't wait until my otter is in my grasp. (just ordered it) I want to do some mods, probably not like you did, but I gotta do something.

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Sweet work man!

I know there have been a lot of questions about lighting asked on the forums lately. Maybe your house will help to give some people some more ideas! I may just have to incorporate something like that into my house, it wouldn't be that hard. Then I could leave the lantern at home.

If you missed it, here is a link to an article I wrote about the modifications I did to my little Otter.

Hanson's Otter Sled Modifications

I'm getting an Otter Magnum Lodge for this winter so we'll see if I can't come up with something similar for that one too.

As far as portability goes, my house is almost exclusively pulled behind the snowmobile so I'm not too worried about the weight. What I am worried about is being organized and not damaging my equipment.

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Great ideas! I was planning on adding a dvd player with a remote 7"(or bigger) LCD display. I have been thinking alot about how to run the power up to the display and lights. I had two ideas 1. run a single cunductor through the poles to wherever I need power and use the poles themselves as grounds. 2. I found a manufacturer that makes multi conductor coil wire with an outside diameter of 2" (bigger and smaller available). Simmply wrap the coiled wire around the poles and there shouldn't be any worry of insulation rubbing off or wires getting caught inside of the poles.

Great Idea using the light tubes, I've looked at just about everything else but never thought of using them. Where did you get them and how much, also did they give you a amperage or wattage rating on them.

Looking forward to sharing my mods!

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Hanson -

I saw your post several weeks ago and that motivated me to get going and finish my house! I really like what you've done for organizing and protecting your gear (especially the carpet). I'll probably put in a sleeve similar to what you have so I can protect the Vex, lights and other odds and ends.

airjer -

I bought the LED tubes from superbrightleds. I took the easy way on this one, and ended paying about $25 per tube. If it's worth your time, you could pretty much build it for less than half that cost. I also noticed that there is plenty of room to open up the tube and add more LED's. Had I known this, I would have bought fewer tubes and soldered on extra LED's. I estimated ~10 mA per LED. If you buy LED's, it shouldn't be hard to find the power dissipation on the data sheet. I haven't hooked up the multimeter yet, but I imagine my whole lighting system is probably pulling ~500 mA. If I remember correctly, this was in the ballpark as to what a Vex will pull.

Rod Bender -

I only sleep when I have too! I came up with everything because I wanted to make something more comfortable, easier, or because I thought it would be cool. I'm pleased with things so far, but we'll see how everything works on the ice. C'mon ice!

Thanks everyone for the compliments. I hope it gives others ideas of how to make their own house a little better. BTW, no guesses on what I plan to use the 7.2 V power for yet? smirk.gif

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Big Ick-

Glad to hear that I helped to motivate you! grin.gif

The Otter sled is definitely a good choice to make these modifications to. You can drill all kinds of holes in the sled for eyebolts, securing 2x4s, etc. without compromising the strength of the sled.

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looks great! Can you explain, or show a closer picture of your rod holders? I'm looking for rod storage ideas for my shack too. I have a rod bag, but just like you say, it can be a nightmare when the bite is on. For my "quick rod storage", I use broom clips - you know those little metal clips that hold a broom handle attached to a wall? They are the perfect size to hold most rod butts, you can mount them anywhere, and they are superlight, cheap, and easy to use. Got the idea from Dave Genz, master tinkerer.

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It all looks pretty neat and functional, I might have to borrow your seat idea for my eskimo. I put a 2x10 pine bench in last year and it got a bit hard to sit on after any amount of time so I bought a couple boat seats to set on it. it would be nice to lose the weight of the bench. 7.2 volts hmmm.... maybe a laptop power supply?

otherwise ya got me

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A 7.2 wouldnt be to run the vex/marcum flasher would it?

Or maybe a GPS?

Or maybe a little radio or something? I can honesty say I have no clue. grin.gif

Hey you can take a laptop with you and if you have a wireless internet deal you can be on the ice and be on FM at the same time! What a deal huh! grin.gif

If your lucky and work at home maybe you can move the home office to the big ice fishing shack. wink.gif lol A guy can sure dream!

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augernaut - Thanks for the idea for the "quick rod storage". This is something that's a must before I hit the water this winter. Here are some more picks of the rod other rod storage in the house. I'll just post the pics and if you have any more Q's, just give me a shout.


I like the guesses for the 7.2V power! The laptop is a good idea. I've thought of that before, but I just know that would go through the spear hole for sure! Here's what I plan on doing with the 7.2V...

A digital camcorder. My brother-in-law does some filming when he's fishing and I would like to start doing this as well. The problem he has is that it takes 2 guys to do it; 1 to fish and 1 to run the camcorder. I'm not talking about filming myself fishing through an 8-inch auger hole, but rather, angling through 2'x3' spear hole. Like I said earlier, I like to sight fish in the shallows and would get a kick out of having other people be able to see what it's all about. So, the power is wired and in place. Now I just need to buy the camcorder and design/build a mounting system. I've given this quite some thought; now I just need to do it! BTW, how cool would it be to have video from the camcorder looking through a spear hole and video from an underwater camera looking horizontally at the fish? Can you picture the footage in your head...cutting from one angle to the other...I sure can. One more thing, my sis was looking at this last night and she just laughed...was that good or bad? grin.gif

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