2019 was Alaska’s warmest year on record and, toward the year’s end, this caused a delay for one group of winter outdoorists: ice fishermen. Both Fairbanks North Star Borough and Alaska State Parks traditionally install their public ice huts in the final week of November; this season, it wasn’t until weeks later that the ice became thick enough to support them. Now that all 14 ice huts are open for business, here’s a guide to where they’re located and how you can rent them.
“For us this year it was a little later than usual,” said State Parks Northern Area Office Superintendent Brooks Ludwig. “One year we got them out at Thanksgiving, which was probably the earliest. This is about the latest it’s ever been. It’s been a warm year.”
Alaska State Parks has nine ice huts set up in two areas. There are five huts at Birch Lake near Mile 305.5 of the Richardson Highway, and four at Quartz Lake near Mile 277.8.
In a news release published on Christmas Eve, Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation Director Ricky Gease encouraged local residents to get involved — and noted that they should ensure they come prepared.
“Those willing to brave the cold should find good opportunities for fishing, and we’re happy to offer these ice huts to help make it possible for well-prepared fishermen to scratch their angling itch in safety and even a fair amount of comfort,” Gease said via news release.
The huts measure 8 feet by 12 feet. Each is equipped with a wood-burning stove and four fishing holes, but the renter must provide all other equipment and supplies. In addition to a valid state fishing license and fishing tackle and bait, Gease advised fishermen to bring an ice auger and/or spud bar, stools or seats, a lantern or flashlight, a shovel, firewood in 12-inch stove lengths and matches.
According to Brooks Ludwig, the lakes are well-stocked with fish thanks to the Ruth Barnett Sport Fish Hatchery.
“The fishing’s been good,” he said. “I talked to one of our rangers and they were at Quartz Lake the other week and they did really well.”
Ludwig explained that the lakes are stocked with the likes of King Salmon, Dolly Varden and Rainbow Trout.
The huts are constructed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and managed by the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation. Each hut is available to rent for $20 per day, plus an $8 reservation fee. They can be reserved online at: bit.ly/2QI5fES.
State Parks will soon have a tenth ice hut available, according to Ludwig. The hut will be installed at 48-Mile Pond, located at 48-mile Chena Hot Springs Road.
“We’ve got everything ready to go and as soon as this cold snap is over, we’re going to go out and put it up,” Ludwig said.
State Parks will leave the huts up until sometime around the first week of April, depending on weather and ice conditions. Ludwig said that the huts are popular and most or all of them get rented out each weekend. The huts typically generate roughly $5,000 in revenue for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources over the season.
Forward planning is, likewise, key if you’re planning on renting one of the five ice huts managed by the Fairbanks North Star Borough Department of Parks and Recreation. The borough has four huts at the Chena Lakes Recreation Area and one at Tanana Lakes Recreation Area.
A borough hut can be rented out for $30 per day, which gives the user access to the hut from 9 a.m. through midnight. Each hut is 8 feet by 12 feet and will have four holes drilled on the morning of reservation. Huts feature a wood stove, and one bundle of wood is included — additional bundles can be purchased for $5 each. Locals are advised to bring their own fishing equipment and warm weather gear, as well as a lighter or matches for stove, and a lantern.
Chena Lake is stocked by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game with Rainbow Trout, Silver Salmon, and Arctic Char; Tanana Lake is stocked with Rainbow Trout and Chinook Salmon. In both the Chena River and the Tanana River, you can find Arctic Grayling, Northern Pike, Whitefish and Burbot.
The huts will remain on the lakes until March 31, depending on weather and ice conditions. To reserve a cabin, you must create an account at the Parks and Recreation website here: bit.ly/2u8AiSE. Once you have an account, you can check the availability of the hut you’re looking to rent on the calendar page. Users are reminded that each hut is locked with a combination padlock; the code to unlock the padlock will be provided once the hut is reserved.
For more information on State Parks ice huts or public-use cabins, you can call the DNR Public Information Center in Fairbanks at 907-451-2705 or visit the division website at: bit.ly/2ZLHWy1.
Contact staff writer Alistair Gardiner at 459-7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.