I finally broke down last weekend and bought a snowmobile. With the onset of global warming and el nino threating our way of life up here in the snowbelt, and the assault of four-wheelers everywhere, why a sled you may ask? Even my mom, who is clueless about ice fishing life, asked why I got a sled over a four wheeler. Here are a few reasons.
The Wind. The wind coming off the prairie in Northwestern Minnesota can be quite brutal. Snow drifts can overtake permanent houses in a matter of hours. Passage on big windswept lakes can be all but impassible with a four wheeler under certain conditions.
Slush. If this winter turns out to be anything like last winter, a snowmobile will be the only way around a lake. Due to heavy snowfall early in the year last winter, many lakes had a crippling amount of snow on top of the ice, causing it to sag and flood the surface. This created slush ice. Throughout most of the season until Late February, most area lakes were plagued with 12-18″ of slush. Many a four wheeler were at the mercy of the sled last winter, hoping to get a pull. Conditions were so bad that I didn’t even drive on the ice once last year.
Trails. Simply put, a four wheeler cannot legally ride down a snowmobile trail. Often times, a snowmobile trail provides the only link between two bodies of water, or the only access to a lake. This is critical if you like fishing untapped resources. This is also important if you like to tour several lakes in a close proximity of each other, without having to go through the hassle of trailering your equipment to each lake.
I realize that potentially, I could ride a four wheeler year round. But to do so comfortably in the winter requires a few modifications to the wheeler like a windshield and hand covers and warmers. Also, if you are ice fishing with friends who are on sleds, it may be difficult to keep up with them. I am not interested in trail riding a four wheeler in the summer, as I would rather spend time on the river fly fishing, so it was a pretty easy sell to go with a snowmobile. This has also opened up the realm of fishing big waters now, like Leech, Lake of the Woods, Upper Red, Snowbank, etc. without having to worry about driving a vehicle on the ice. I am excited! I think my mom now understands why I chose a sled over a wheeler.