Head South For The Big Smoke—The Big Smoke Miami

Cigar Aficionado

Ice Fishing Comes in From the Cold

Before you dismiss ice fishing as a tough test meant for only the hardiest outdoorsmen who bundle up on wood stools, hunched over holes in the ice, praying for a bite before they freeze, consider the modern ice fisherman who is mobile, equipped with tools that increase his chances of catching dinner and, more importantly, make the experience a joy, not a pain.

Those who choose a luxury semi-permanent fishing house such as those offered by Ice Castle Fish Houses Mfg (icecastlefishhousesmfg.com) might forget they're roughing it at all as they watch TV and smoke cigars from within its heated comfort.

The inside of the fish house is completely customizable for the fisherman's taste, right down to the number of wall outlets. You can order fiberglass installation in the cedar or pine walls and ceilings, which will help keep the heat generated by the 16,000-BTU furnace or the optional 20,000-BTU unit from escaping into the night air. It can be outfitted not only with the latest LCD television, but also with a satellite dish. In addition, the house offers a sleeping quarters and separate chemical toilet.

Another option is a three-burner cook stove top with oven, located near the sink (with running water), that will fry up your catch. Crack the double-paned windows to ventilate the fish odor and your victory cigar.

Resembling RVs, these custom structures are built on a suspension-wheel frame featuring heavy-duty winches that lower the fish house to the ice. A tongue jack on the front of the fish house attaches to a tow vehicle so an angler can maneuver around the lake and "get on the fish." An exterior light over the entrance helps the angler find his way to his fish house at night (when crappies and walleye fish are typically looking for a meal).

Four floor holes offer enough space to use a power auger, such as StrikeMaster's Strike-Lite model (strikemaster.com), to drill into the icy depths below. The heat from the shelter prevents the holes from refreezing, which is important when you are using your Motorized Aqua-Vu, or MAV, underwater camera. The MAV uses a hands-free foot pedal to automatically deploy and retrieve an 80-foot cable with a camera on the end. Next to you is a 10.4-inch LCD screen projecting a black and white image of what's happening below you. Think of it as fish TV.

Purists may scoff at the Ice Castle Fish House, but once you invite them inside for a drink and a smoke, they change their tune.