Here’s a little project that will get you ice fishers ready for the upcoming season: Make yourself a custom ice fishing bucket. It only takes a little time, it doesn’t cost much, and you only need a few materials, most of which you can get from your local hardware store. Here’s how you do it:
First, get a five gallon plastic bucket with a lid. This bucket is not only your container for carrying gear, it’s also your seat. The twist is, you want to get a number of super-strong magnets, and glue them to the outside of the bucket. I like to use Gorilla Glue, or some other brand of industrial strength, all-material adhesive. You’ll want to pick magnets in different shapes in sizes—from small nickel-diameter-sized circular magnets, to longer, rectangular magnets. The reason you want different sized magnets is that you’ll be using them to hold different sized tools—like pliers, a knife, and so forth—as you fish.
Anyone who ice fishes a lot knows that it’s best to have your tools within arm’s reach, so you aren’t opening and closing containers, especially in cold weather when you have to take your gloves off. On the other hand, you don’t want those valuable tools laying around the ice where they can get wet (and rusty), or worse, lost when they get kicked into a snow drift or through a hole in the ice.
Hence, the magnets. Carry your tools in the bucket— auger in one hand, rods and bucket in the other—as you walk out to fish, and then set up shop when you’ve drilled your spots. With the tools stuck to your bucket, you’ll always know where to find them, and you can make any layout you want.
The last step is to get a stadium cushion for the lid (your seat). I like to cut a cushion to size, fitting the diameter of the lid exactly. That way it’s less apt to slide around as you fish. Some people like to glue the seat cushion permanently to the bucket, but I don’t, just in case it gets wet or dirty, I prefer being able to remove it and clean the seat.
Granted, in this day and age, many ice fishers have deluxe setups with elaborate sheds, and tackle storage systems (I’ve even seen satellite television on the ice). But for a simple, cheap, do-it-yourself and go-anywhere ice fishing station, a bucket with magnets is hard to beat.
Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream magazine, and the editor-in-chief of Angling Trade. He is the co-author of four books, most recently the Little Red Book of Fly Fishing.