Going to Work in the Ice Shack

There’s more to the day than telling stories and not catching fish

Going to Work in the Ice Shack

This story is part of a series on ice-fishing culture. To read all series posts, click here.


You’re likely wondering what a guy does sitting in an ice shack by himself, day after day.

To anyone who lives nearby and witnesses me getting here early in the morning and leaving after dark, sitting here by myself in this brutal weather all day with other random trucks coming and going from the shack, it must look like I’m running a meth lab. 

I assure you that’s not the case. I’m scheming in the pike lab. 

I get up a little earlier than a normal work day because the drive here is a bit longer and I usually have to make a stop or two on the way to freshen up my minnow supply, grab an orange soda, maybe a breakfast sandwich — whatever the day calls for. 

The sun still isn’t fully up when I drive onto the lake at the Hodag Park boat landing in Rhinelander. Typically I leave the truck running for a little while after I pull up to the Snake Chaser. I get out, unlock the shack, fire up the heaters and jump back in the truck for a minute to get ready. Then I head back out and drill my holes. By that time the shack has warmed up enough to bring my laptop and other gear inside and set up. I check my email to see if anything requires immediate attention, then head back out and put my tip-ups in. 

Once my minnows are soaking, I return to the shack and start my daily log. From there the log pretty much tells the story. What it doesn’t show, however, is that I’m actually sitting here on my laptop doing all my regular work, staying connected to the land office with Wi-Fi from a little jetpack. 

I’m the editor of three publications, and working from the ice shack doesn’t change any of my deadlines or day-to-day responsibilities. So there are proofs to look through, stories to edit, photo captions to write, questions to answer and on and on. I’m also working on all the other stories and photos accompanying this series. It’s actually been a ton of work, but I’ve loved every minute of it. 

Of course there are all the little tasks that come with fishing and spending time in the shack. I have to change the propane on the small heater a few times a day. I get almost exactly two hours and 40 minutes out of a 1-pound tank with the heater running on low. 

Even when there’s no action at all, I still go out and check my tip-ups a few times a day. That usually takes about 10 minutes each time. Weather dictates frequency. 

I probably spend about another seven minutes per day wiping or squeegeeing the windows. It takes seconds at a time, but I do it constantly. I look out, see all my flags down and turn back around. A few minutes later the windows are frosted or fogged over again, and I repeat the cycle. Usually I only need to clear one window to see my tip-ups, but it’s nice to have a view of the lake too. 

I spend five or 10 minutes a day on average tidying up. Cleaning the counter, table and stove top, emptying the garbage and recyclables, and putting random odds and ends back where they belong. 

I probably spend about three minutes per day debating if some foodstuff sitting on the counter is still safe to eat. 

Then I take a little time to eat whatever I’ve deemed likely to be safe. 

And on any day in the shack, whether a workday or otherwise, there’s always some time spent looking at the walls, scanning through the records of days past, either for pure amusement or to figure out when Steve caught the musky or Brian went to a wine tasting instead of fishing. Those are important things that need to be kept straight. 

There’s usually a little time spent talking to whoever stops by, and that’ll remind me of something I need to mention in one of these stories, so I jump back on my laptop and make notes.    

I also spend several minutes per day re-tuning the radio. We only listen to one station but have to tune it in eight times a day. The dial on the radio is touchy and it can’t hold steady on Classic Country. Those songs move the dial as much as they move my heart. 

Mostly I’m just sitting at the little table in the back of the shack working, with painfully little need to spend any time running for flags. But when 4:30 rolls around and I’m free to go, I rarely want to leave. 

I like to pick up my boards while there’s still a little light and then maybe crack a beer when I get back in the shack and enjoy the sunset. It’s proven to be such a nice place to write that I usually keep working a while. 

That’s basically a workday in the shack. Living the dream. 


This story is part of a series on ice-fishing culture. To read all series posts, click here.

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