So, you finally bought a wheelhouse. Now what?
Just as a properly rigged boat catches more fish, the same is true for a wheelhouse. But where do you begin? Chances are your new wheelhouse needs several accessories to make it more fishable — and safe for trailering. Because I bought and rigged my first wheelhouse recently, I might be able to save you a few headaches.
First, think about all the operating mechanicals that go on regarding the exterior of your wheelhouse. Start from the hitch and go to the tail, thinking about both trailering and dropping the house on ice. You may need a drop hitch on your tow vehicle to properly balance your load. Consider a fully adjustable hitch with multiple ball sizes; that way you can leave it attached to your tow vehicle, and you’ll never need to find a specific hitch just for your wheelhouse.
You’ll need everything from bolts, wire, and a full set of tools with which to help wield those extras. You’ll also need a trailering kit, which is a simple plastic tub filled with a grease gun, shop towels, a 4-way tire wrench to change a flat, and a hub kit. Pass on the bearing kits themselves and instead elect to replace the entire hub should you smoke a bearing in sub-zero temps.
Don’t forget extra pins, especially the trailering ones, as these love to get lost in the snow. Bring a chisel and jack to help out in the event of a freeze-down, wood blocks to prevent freeze-down, and a shovel to help bank snow around the exterior of the wheelhouse. Consider a small propane torch should your door be prone to freeze-up with all the hot-to-cold created condensation. Last but not least, throw in a head lamp or two should you have to fix anything in the dark.
Heat and power are a requirement on the open ice, so make sure your propane tanks are full (and fully operational), and that you throw a portable generator (below) into the truck as well. There are numerous generator options out there, but keep in mind that sub-zero running might require a cold-weather kit. A few gallons of gas may be needed to keep that generator running too, depending on your power needs.
Most modern wheelhouses come equipped with Catch Covers, but you’ll need to purchase the hole sleeves that form the connection between that open area in the floor and the ice sheet itself. Dedicated rattle reels for every hole are nice, and so are rod holders. These days, you don’t have to choose as there are several aftermarket options that allow you to mount a simple receiver disk to a wall, then slip in and out a rattle reel or rod holder of your choice.
Of course, you’ll need tackle, rod-and reel-combos and ice fishing electronics. Remember that electronics need a power source, so bring chargers, and RCA or HDMI cable(s) to connect your underwater camera to the TV. Many wheelhouses these days come with pre-wired in-wall connections for this. Along those same lines, think about aeration of your bait cooler, and how you will both store and use bait during your stay.
The Best of the Rest
Depending on your wheelhouse, the rest of the list isn’t meant to be exhaustive or full of “must-haves.” It’s simply some ideas to get your mind headed in the right direction as you plan.
- Cooking: Dedicated pots, pans, dishes, silverware, seasonings, pizza pan, tinfoil, coffee pot, toaster, fillet knife and cutting boards (below)
- Safety: Carbon-monoxide/smoke-detector, first-aid kid, indoor/outdoor thermometer, and a ladder for bunks
- Organization: Storage baskets that fit in specific drawers and shelves, key ring hanger by the door, coat hooks for hanging items everywhere, and stackable totes for the bathroom area
- Clean-up: Paper towel-holder, towel bar, toilet paper holder, area rugs, and a broom/dust pan with door clamp or holder for storage
- Fun: Playing cards, board games and movies
- “Hacks”: Squeegee for cleaning floors after drilling holes, non-glazed ceramic tiles to line the inside bottom of the oven to prevent burning, 2-inch memory foam sleeping pads for extra comfort, corner shelves to make use of nooks and crannies especially near sleeping areas, and ceiling storage helpers to hold anything flat or low-profile like rulers, rods, etc.
Of course, with necessity being the mother of all invention, you could always just head out fishing with a notepad and pen to document what you’d want and when you’d want it. Hopefully, this is a great head-start and you can refine to your own personal tastes from here.
Images by Joel Nelson