A couple years ago at the St. Paul Ice Fishing show, I first encountered the Wilcraft, a hybrid ATV that is advertised to float on water. I enjoyed the concept of being able to float out to first or last ice without needing a canoe or kayak, and without the fear of falling through the ice.

This year, I got a closer look at the machine in action on the ice at the World Ice Fishing Championships in Wausau. There I had discussions with the representative Don and convinced him to come to my town of Onalaska, just a couple hours from Wilcraft’s offices, to test it out on my home water–and on last ice.

I have to say that I was impressed with the Wilcraft system. It did exactly what Don said it was capable of.

The first test run was on the stable ice of Lake Onalaska. I wasn’t quite convinced that the Wilcraft was as reliable as advertised. Don deployed the Wilcraft and we went fishing on Lake Onalaska for perch and panfish.

We cruised around a little bit on Lake Onalaska, building up my confidence in the craft. It was relatively easy to steer and we hit speeds of 20 MPH, as noted on my GPS. Once we found a spot, we drilled some holes and fished. It started to rain, so we flipped the canvas top and stayed dry.

Our second test run was downriver a bit and more treacherous. After spending the first day in the Wilcraft, I was feeling more comfortable with the vehicle, so I advised Don of a location downriver where there was more open water and really bad ice. Don simply said, “Let me at it.”

Don drove us over some weak ice, but we didn’t punch through. For purpose of videos and photography, Don dropped me off on more stable ice and made another go at an obvious soft spot and powered through.

I was very impressed with how well the unit stayed afloat. When it broke through the ice, it went in sideways and then equalized itself out. Don gave the Wilcraft a little gas and completely broke free of the ice and was floating around in the pocket of open water he just made.

Don grabbed his ice pick to grab the ice and gave himself a little leverage and backed the unit back onto the ice with little resistance or issues.

While Don and I were test driving the Wilcraft, I noticed people watching us from a distance. The spectators shared the skepticism I once had, but after seeing the unit in action, they were believers and one requested to test drive the unit. The spectator and his daughter drove around with Don while I fished and waited for their report. They too were impressed with the Wilcraft; they liked how easy it was to steer, and commented on the unit’s performance on glare ice.

Image by Anthony Larson

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