man ice fishing with several fish on ice

While hearing the words “ice” and “heater” together might make you think of a melty mess, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, using a heater while ice fishing is actually a helpful thing to do — today, we’re taking a closer look at just that. We’ll also outline a few recommendations for the best ice fishing heaters available for your next trek out on a frozen lake.

Let’s dive in.

What Is Ice Fishing?

Ice fishing is a type of fishing that is done through a hole that is cut in the ice on a lake, pond, etc. In fact, it’s pretty straightforward — after confirming that a frozen lake is safe enough to walk on, you just pick a particular spot and drill a large hole completely through the ice until you can see open water.

What You Need to Go Ice Fishing

Of course, you need a certain set of equipment in order to do this properly. Here is a helpful list of everything you would need:

Fishing License

We know this one goes without saying, but wanted to remind you just in case. And if you were wondering, you only need a regular state-issued fishing license in order to ice fish.

Ice Auger

This is what you’ll be using to drill that hole into the ice. Beginners usually do just fine with a manual auger, however there are motorized versions available for drilling more than one hole quickly. 

Ice Fishing Rod, Line and Reel

Unlike a regular fishing pole, ice fishing rods are much more compact to better suit the small hole you’ll be casting into. They are usually 24 to 36 inches long and give enough leverage to hoist a large fish up out of the hole. Ice fishing line is different from regular fishing line as well in that it is built to handle freezing water and jagged ice. An ice fishing reel is also more compact than regular reels and has a smaller winding radius. Centerpin and float reels are considered the best options for ice fishing because they allow the angler to palm the reel to control line tension.

Lures and Bait

This is how you get the fish to bite. You can use either live bait or bounce a jig up and down in the water. There is a variety of spoons, lures, and jigs available for the specific types of fish you’re after.

Tackle Box

This is for carrying all your lures, hooks, weights and other gear. Be sure to choose one that is not too cumbersome because you don’t want to be weighed down too much. A backpack tackle box can be a nice choice for freeing up your hands as you move about the ice. 

Ice Shelter

Some people just like to sit on a bucket out in the open in front of their fishing hole. Braving the elements is fine, but it can get very cold out there on a frozen lake. An ice shelter will allow you to stay warm and afford you more time out on the ice. Today’s models are lightweight, portable models and fold up easily for fast transporting. Ice shelters also pair perfectly with ice fishing heaters.

How to Use an Ice Fishing Heater

Ice fishing heaters are a convenient and efficient means for keeping an ice shelter nice and warm. They are portable, lightweight and usually run on propane. Because most ice shelters are fairly small, the heaters are able to warm them up very quickly. Additionally, they will keep your hands comfortable and dry, which should allow you to handle your fishing gear much more effectively. 

Ice Safety

If you’re wondering how to use a heater on ice, it’s a very fair question. Some ice shelters have flooring, safe from an opening to the ice, which can provide a stable barrier for your heater. Even if the shelter doesn’t have a floor, the ice should be extremely thick to be sanctioned safe for fishing and the portable heater is not powerful enough to melt it away. Regardless, we definitely recommend placing your heater on a milk crate or bucket to keep it fully off the ground. 


When using an ice fishing heater, be sure your shelter is properly ventilated. Fresh air must be able to flow in and out at all times to drastically reduce the risk of oxygen deficiency. Ideally, you should have an opening on two opposite sides of the shelter to create a steady flow of air. Also, you should have an air hole near the shelter’s ground and another near the top as the heavier fresh and cold air will enter close to the ground, and the lighter warm air will rise and exit through the top. For additional peace of mind, we recommend having a carbon monoxide detector in your shelter.

Ice Fishing Heater Options

If you are interested in purchasing an ice fishing heater, here are some solid choices:


Mr. Heater Big Buddy Propane Heater

ice fishing heatersThis large-sized heater runs on either two 1-pound propane bottles or a single 20-pound cylinder (you’ll need a separate hose). The Big Buddy can heat a space up to 400 square feet with an 8-foot ceiling (3200 cubic feet), which is perfect for large or medium sized shelters. Its large size helps to keep you warm even in subzero temperatures. It weighs 17 pounds, which may be a little heavy for some to carry. 

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Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Propane Heater

ice fishing heatersThe Portable Buddy is basically a smaller version of the Big Buddy. It can heat spaces up to 225 square feet running on a 1-pound propane cylinder. The output selector can be set for 4,000 or 9,000 BTU, which is an ideal amount of power for portable ice houses. Also, it weighs only 9 pounds which makes it a little easier for carrying.

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DuraHeat Double Tank Ice Fishing Propane Heater

ice fishing heatersThe DuraHeat runs on 2 propane cylinders that disperses a great amount of heat. Its lantern style design will add a touch of rustic ambiance to your ice shelter, and it can also be used as a heating source for an outdoor campsite or your home’s patio. While fairly large, it only weighs 11 pounds for toting to your ice shelter.

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Bottom Line

We hope you now feel more comfortable with the warming ways of ice fishing heaters. Just keep the following tips in mind when looking for your own:


  • Always be sure to check off all the safety boxes when using your ice fishing heater. Keep it elevated away from the ice and make certain your ice shelter is properly ventilated.
  • Be aware of how much space you need to have heated as well as how far you will be carrying your heater.