What is the Best Snowmobile for Ice Fishing?

Ice fishing is a great way to have some fun during the winter when the world outside is nearly frozen solid. And if you want to go ice fishing in a somewhat difficult-to-access location, a good snowmobile is essential. 

I’m an avid snowmobiler, and I also love fishing. I take every opportunity to combine these two passions, and I have experience with several different machines that have helped me with these endeavors.

I’ll give you some tips and advice on the best snowmobile for ice fishing in this post. Everyone will have slightly different needs or preferences, but my goal is to get you set up with something to help you get to your favorite ice fishing hole.

Let’s get fishing.

Are Snowmobiles Good on Ice? 

Snowmobiles are designed to run on just about any type of winter condition you can imagine – ice included. But there are certain things you want to take into account when getting a snowmobile that excels on the ice. 

Traction is one of these factors, and riding around on hard-packed ice can be a totally different experience than riding in deep snow. You want to use a snowmobile built to handle working on ice with that in mind.

What Type of Snowmobile is Best for Ice Fishing? 

While you can technically use any type of snowmobile for ice fishing, fan-cooled models are better for this activity than liquid-cooled machines. 

This is because fan-cooled sleds don’t require snow to assist with cooling. The fan does all the work of blowing cool air onto the engine and keeping it in good working condition while you are on the ice. 

Liquid-cooled snowmobiles need to have snow directed up onto the heat deflector for the system to operate properly. This isn’t always possible when riding on ice unless you run ice-scratchers.

I think a fan-cooled 2-stroke utility or touring-style sled is the best option for ice fishing. These will give you reliability, comfort, and the ability to tow extra equipment out to the fishing sit if you need to. 

Selecting a Snowmobile for Ice Fishing: What to Consider

Here are a few important factors to consider when choosing a snowmobile for ice fishing. 

Cooling System

As I mentioned above, a fan-cooled system is preferred over a liquid-cooled system for ice fishing purposes. A fan-cooled snowmobile will be able to keep the engine cool without the need for excess snow. 

Reliability

You want any snowmobile to be reliable, but this becomes even more important when you venture off the beaten path to a far-off ice fishing location. There probably won’t be much help around if you break down out here. 

Look for models made by trusted manufacturers as a good starting point for reliability. A lot of people will also say that 2-stroke snowmobiles are a little more reliable than 4-stroke models, but modern 4-strokes can work. 

Towing/Hauling Capacity

If you are going to be on an extended ice fishing trip, your sled’s towing or hauling capacity also comes into play. You want to be able to bring all of the necessary gear, equipment, and supplies you’ll need. 

Utility sleds are often the best choice for towing capacity and will come with all the hookups you need to haul behind. Touring sleds will have a more extended profile, which gives you more room to carry extra stuff on the sled without towing. 

Best Snowmobiles for Ice Fishing in 2022

Here are my top picks for the best snowmobiles for ice fishing this year. 

1. Ski-Doo Skandic

  • 2 and 4 stroke options
  • Customizable setup
  • Good cargo and towing capacity
  • Costs range from $9.699 to $13,849

The Ski-Doo Skandic is one of the top newer ice fishing sleds. This is a utility-style sled that is fully designed for ice fishers and others who need reliability and towing capacity. It’s compact, durable and ready for action. 

The sled can be customized to match any needs or preferences you might have, and you can choose from multiple engine styles or track sizes. This customization is an excellent feature on top of an already solid design. 

The ability to choose from a 2-stroke or 4-stroke engine is pretty sweet, although they both feature a liquid-cooled system.   

2. Polaris 550 Voyageur

  • 2-stroke 
  • Fan-cooled 
  • Customizable 
  • Good towing capacity 
  • Starts at $9,399

If you are looking for an affordable workhorse that will be a trusted companion on the ice, the Polaris 550 Voyageur is it. This one has a 2-stroke fan-cooled engine that is ideal for fishing purposes and delivers excellent reliability. 

You also get a solid suspension system that won’t bounce around even when towing a large load. Customizable options let you build the ideal sled for your needs, and there are a handful of other standout features on this model.

You’ll pay extra for all the possible features, but they can be helpful if you are a serious fisherman.  

3. Arctic Cat Norseman

  • 2-stroke
  • Liquid-cooled
  • Digital ignition 
  • Starts at $13,495

The Arctic Cat Norseman is another solid choice for an ice fishing rig. This sport utility snowmobile has everything you want for long days on the ice far away from home, where the fishing is sure to be good. 

The 8000 series 2-stroke engine delivers reliable power and torque while allowing you to haul a trailer or added equipment without worry. It also has several features like a digital push-button ignition that can come in useful. 

This one is a bit more expensive than other utility models and has a liquid-cooled system.   

4. Yamaha VK540

  • 2-stroke
  • Super reliable 
  • Reverse transmission 
  • Starts at $9,649

If you are considering doing extended riding to access your favorite fishing spot, the Yamaha VK540 is an awesome model for the job. This touring utility model offers the best of both worlds in terms of comfort and dependability. 

The 2-stroke engine is rare for a Yamaha, but you still get all of the reliability that the brand is well-known for. And a 20-inch track comes with aggressive lugs to give you added traction and control on the ice. 

This one also comes with a reverse gear, which can be useful if you are hauling a fishing shack and want to get it placed just right. 

5. Ski-Doo Tundra

  • Affordable
  • Agile 
  • Decent towing capacity 
  • Starting at $8,459

The Ski-Doo Tundra is a good option for any ice fisherman on a budget. It has all the basics you need to get out on the ice, and you’ll also get Ski-Doo’s reliable performance out of this sport utility sled. 

The basic model doesn’t have many bells and whistles, but it’s one of the cheapest utility sleds you can get your hands on. If you are more of a casual fisherman who doesn’t need to haul much, you don’t need those added features.    

Beginner Snowmobile Tips

Safety is an important consideration for any new snowmobiler. Always wear a helmet, even if you are just headed out on the ice to fish. And always let someone know where you are going in case you get stranded. 

I also recommend practicing riding with a trailer or loaded down sled on the trails to get a feel for it before you head out onto the ice. Your sled can handle a little differently, and you want to be comfortable with it. 

FAQs

Here are a few quick answers to some of the most common questions about ice fishing and snowmobiles. 

Can I use a regular sled for ice fishing?

Technically, you can use any type of sled for ice fishing. But you’ll want a fan-cooled model if you ride on ice for an extended time. If you have a liquid-cooled model, be careful not to overheat the engine.   

How to set up snowmobile for ice fishing?

Every fisherman has their preferences for setting up their sled for ice fishing. You’ll want to have extra tie-downs and straps to hold all of your gear, and you should make sure your wear guards/carbides are sharpened and ready to roll.  

How do you put skis on an ice fishing sled?

Ice fishing sleds don’t require any specific type of skis, but you should make sure you have good wear guards or carbides to give you enough traction on the ice. Without these, you won’t have much control, especially at higher speeds. 

Final Thoughts

All of the snowmobiles mentioned here are highly recommended for ice-fishing purposes. They are reliable and will give you the ability to tow extra gear and equipment to have everything you need for a solid fishing trip. 

You don’t necessarily need an ice fishing specific machine to get started, but the sleds here are built with particular features that are useful for ice fishing purposes.

About Chaz Wyland
I’m a snowmobile fanatic. I live for riding and am out on the trails or backcountry as often as possible during the winter months. I was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains and have snowmobiled in dozens of North American locations. When the snow is falling, you’ll find me on a sled.

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