Skip to main content

This Ice-Fishing Craft Dominates the Surface [It Floats, Too]

This Ice-Fishing Craft Dominates the Surface [It Floats, Too]
Ice-anglers are taking a renewed interest in the Wilcraft. For one thing, it floats! (Photo courtesy of Wilcraft)

ice-fishing
Ice-anglers are taking a renewed interest in the Wilcraft. For one thing, it floats! (Photo courtesy of Wilcraft)

Past winters have been warm, and this not-so-new vehicle is perfect for iffy ice-fishing conditions.

By Jim Edlund

With warmer than average weather over recent winters, many anglers have begun to re-think how they travel on ice, even in the Ice Belt's northern tier.


More anglers are parking trucks on shore, and using ATVs, UTVs, snowmobiles, or vehicles designed specifically for ice-fishing. 


One such example is an amphibious ice-fishing vehicle called Wilcraft — a unique machine with humble origins in a North St. Paul, Minnesota, workshop.

The Wilcraft allows anglers to cross sketchy ice (even water) to reach ice suitable for fishing on foot — or remain under the vehicle's insulated enclosure and safely fish through holes that open up in a hull that is lowered or raised by 12-volt linear actuators.

"Wilcraft began in 1998 to make ice-fishing easier, more mobile, and safer," said avid ice-angler and Wilcraft inventor Tom Roering. "We saw ice conditions changing, and now, 20 years later, the ice season is undoubtedly shorter. There's less good ice early and late season and there are longer mid-winter thaws. The use of permanent houses and full-size vehicles is more difficult. The sport has moved towards more mobility. Our goal was to build a machine that addressed all these issues."

More on Ice-Fishing Gear


After countless prototypes and hundreds of hours of real-world testing, Roering came to market with the Wilcraft (Water-Ice-Land-Craft) in 2006 — a machine that ice-anglers can easily and safely operate on minimal ice, water, or a combination of both.

Wilcraft vehicles feature an open floor plan; quick-set insulated enclosure; fishing holes through the floor; electrically retractable wheels; thick aluminum construction; insulated floor; EFI engine; hydrostatic drive; and super high flotation tires.

ice-fishing
It's a boat and a wheeled vehicle. The Water-Ice-Land-Craft, or Wilcraft, is safe on minimal ice or open water. (Photo courtesy of Wilcraft)

"Its flotation characteristics and minimal weight are very valuable given shorter ice-fishing seasons. Given its weight distribution, the Wilcraft has a lighter footprint than an average angler walking on the ice," said Roering. 

The first Wilcraft machines were belt-drive, but Roering more recently switched to a hydrostatic drive design.

"The new hydrostatic design is a sealed system that's very reliable and intuitive to operate by moving the flow control lever. It also allowed us to introduce a 4-wheel-drive option." 

By customer request, Roering also increased the Wilcraft length from 12 to 14 feet. The new Wilcraft EXT allows more fishable square space at 14 feet long with 57 inches of width and over 6 feet of headroom with the enclosure up.

Water displacement has increased considerably and there is a larger, fishable footprint on the ice. There has been some weight increase with the length and 26.5 horse EFI engine, but the machine can still operate on ice barely suitable for fishing on foot. Expect to pay $15,600 for an EXT. 

Angler Matt Zeadow purchased a Wilcraft EXT for double-duty ice-fishing and duck hunting. But the main reason was a terrible tragedy that changed his perspective on everything.

"I lost a close friend who put his truck through a weak spot with 2-and-a-half feet of ice everywhere else. I was knee-deep in the search and recovery and actually found him with my underwater camera. After that, I said, 'That's not going to be me.' With the Wilcraft, I can fish on minimal ice, in big winds, extreme cold€¦. I put the cover on, turn on the heater. It's awesome. I'm warm, I'm comfortable, I'm safe."

Roering takes pride in helping anglers like Zeadow reach fish safely no matter the ice conditions. "Ice is never predictable. Unfortunately, there is some loss of property and life each winter. With the Wilcraft, anglers can reach fish, safely."

Catch 'Em If You Can

You've probably heard the adage that 90 percent of the fish live in 10 percent of the water. The same applies when lakes freeze, but ice, snow, and weather conditions dictate what spots can be reached safely.

The bottom line?

It's pretty hard to catch fish if you can't get to them. Ice thickness is the biggest factor. As a general rule of thumb:

  • 4 inches of ice is required for fishing on foot
  • 5 to 7 inches for ATVs and snowmobiles
  • 8 to 12 inches for a small vehicle
  • 12 to 15 inches (or more) for a full-size truck.

Ice-anglers must also pay close attention to the reality of pressure ridges, ice heaves, cracks, and other anomalies.

Fact is, there is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice. Experienced ice-anglers constantly drill test holes to determine ice thickness on travel routes, whatever mode of transportation they use.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

This one simple trick will trigger more bass strikes on a jerkbait during the fall months.

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Michael Cassidy and Paul Pluff talk about their elk hunt in New Mexico using the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter.

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Most fishing rods feature both an action and a power rating, but what do those ratings mean and how do you use them to select the right rod for different scenarios? In this video, outdoor writer and tackle specialist Shane Beilue breaks down the difference between a rod blank’s action and power and discusses what the various ratings of each mean.

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Increase a lure’s effectiveness by pairing it with the ideal reel speed.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Get ready to braise ground venison with all the traditional chili ingredients, directly on the grill, for a smokin' hot take on this comfort food classic.Smoked Venison Chili Recipe Wild Game

Smoked Venison Chili Recipe

Eva Shockey - October 16, 2020

Get ready to braise ground venison with all the traditional chili ingredients, directly on the...

Make this venison chorizo recipe and cook it right away or freeze it (cooked or raw) and use it as needed.Venison Chorizo Recipe Wild Game

Venison Chorizo Recipe

Allie Doran - October 30, 2020

Make this venison chorizo recipe and cook it right away or freeze it (cooked or raw) and use...

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? You'll need a cartridge that lives up to the expectations demanded at ranges up to and beyond 500, 600 or even 1,000 yards. Try these different loads until you find the one that thumps steel at long ranges consistently.10 Best Long-Range Rifle Cartridges Ever Made Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Rifle Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? You'll need a cartridge that lives up to...

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths.5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

See More Trending Articles

More Other Fishing

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From tumblers to bottles to flasks (and even clever bottle openers), we've rounded up some of the best bar gear for the outdoors.Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup The Deck

Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup

Chelsie Walters and Jessyca Sortillon - August 31, 2020

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From...

Learn from your electronics by understanding SONAR frequency strengths and weaknesses.Secrets Your Fishfinder is Trying to Reveal Stories

Secrets Your Fishfinder is Trying to Reveal

Dr. Jason Halfen - May 13, 2020

Learn from your electronics by understanding SONAR frequency strengths and weaknesses.

Cool new SneakyHunter Bootlamps offer new perspective on seeing where you're going.Headlamps for Your Feet Light Your Pathway in the Dark Other Hunting

Headlamps for Your Feet Light Your Pathway in the Dark

Game & Fish Staff - November 13, 2020

Cool new SneakyHunter Bootlamps offer new perspective on seeing where you're going.

Before changing components on your hunting & fishing truck, consider the consequences.To Mod or Not to Mod Your Four-Wheel-Drive Truck Other Hunting

To Mod or Not to Mod Your Four-Wheel-Drive Truck

Jonathan Hanson - December 11, 2019

Before changing components on your hunting & fishing truck, consider the consequences.

See More Other Fishing

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now