This Man Turned His Truck Into a Tank to Go Ice Fishing
When winter hit the North American ice belt, this fisherman hit back.
Brian Brosdahl can draw a line in the snow around Grand Rapids, Minnesota. With broad strokes, he lays out his domain: a 100-mile radius on a narrow slice of America wedged between Lake Superior and the Canadian border. Here, the man they call “Bro” has been carving out a career as one of the Midwest’s most legendary outdoorsmen for 24 years.
Brosdahl leads dozens of fishing trips per year in the lakes around his Minnesota home. Many, of course, take place atop their floating waves. But when winter winds descend in the north country, Brosdahl truly comes into his element. He is one of the nation’s best ice fishermen; and to combat the impassable roads of winter, he’s built one of the most fearsome fishing trucks in the country—he’s turned a Toyota FJ Cruiser into a tank.
“Sometimes, you can’t go anywhere in a vehicle except on a road,” Brosdahl tells. “With the tracks, I can just turn off of the road and go wherever I want to.”
The idea came to Brosdahl four years ago, just before the polar vortex of 2013 blanketed the Midwest in some of the deepest snow seen in decades. Then, he said, many roads were impassable; and even deer found it impossible to cross the snow banks on either side of the asphalt. “I still wanted to ice fish,” Brosdahl says. “But it was hard to bring friends or clients out on my snowmobile.”
That’s when the veteran angler had an epiphany: what if he could turn his truck into a snowmobile?
“As it turns out, there was already a company in Michigan who had the same idea,” he laughs. “They were wrapping snowmobile tracks around a steel frame and bolting them onto trucks. All you had to do was take off your wheels and these would go right where the rims were. It sounded too good to be true.”
Brosdahl made a call to American Track Truck in Chassell, Michigan, a tiny unincorporated town almost directly across Lake Superior from Brosdahl’s base camp. Within days, he had ferried his FJ to their shop, and transformed the truck that he calls his grocery-getter into one of the most notorious ice fishing platforms in Minnesota.
“One day, I had 17 phone calls from people on four-wheelers and in trucks who needed to be pulled out,” Brosdahl recounts. “Once people figured out I had the tracks, everyone became my friend.”
Brosdahl, who is careful to check ice thickness with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources before heading out, says driving his new tank is easy. “They allow you to drive through an amazing amount of snow. I can drive through fields that are shoulder deep and have absolutely no problem.”
With newfound versatility, Brosdahl was able to continue guiding throughout the polar vortex, putting himself and clients on top of fish that most fishermen found impossible to access. At Lake of the Woods, one of the most popular ice fishing locations in the country, Brosdahl escaped a city of ice fishing houses by driving right by them. Miles away on top of the ice, he drilled his own fishing holes without a soul in sight.
It’s a scenario that he says repeated itself time and again that winter. “The fishing was spectacular,” he says. “I had all of the lakes to myself.”
Brosdahl says crappie, panfish and walleye are his primary targets under winter ice. Coupled with a generous dose of panko bread crumbs, fish fry, tartar sauce and lemon juice, they make the decision to ditch his FJ’s tires for treads even more savory.
Today, Brosdahl has spent hundreds of hours piloting his treaded Toyota across snow and ice in some of the Lower 48’s most remote areas. He’s helped clients hoist hundreds of fish from their waters, and he’s even used his truck to feed a starving, isolated population of deer during the harshest hours of winter. And, he says anyone else can do the same.
“You don’t need a nice truck to do this,” he tells. “You can get the treads for under $10,000, and just about any old four-wheel drive would do.”
Brosdahl’s top tips for tackling the winter on treads? Get a four-inch lift kit, slow down on steep inclines and always know the ice.