Ice fishing is a winter tradition for many anglers. It gets you out into the great outdoors and lets you bond with friends – just one of many ways to stay active in the winter.
But before you head out, you’ll want to keep a few tips in mind.
How Do You Know if the Ice is Safe?
First off, it’s imperative that the ice on which you fish is safe. Take a pass on fishing if you’re at all unsure about the ice’s thickness.Here are some guidelines to follow:
- Assess its thickness. Four inches is the minimum thickness on which you should walk and fish on ice. . Thicker is safer if you’ll be hauling heavy gear or taking a snowmobile. To find out the ice thickness, ask a trusted bait shop, outdoor outfitter or an authority such as the local fish and game commission. You can also find out yourself with an ice chisel or ice auger.
- Ice doesn’t freeze in a uniform way. There can be a dramatic difference in ice just a few feet away, so use caution if you’re moving about.
- New ice is stronger than old ice. Use extra caution toward the end of the season.
- Be mindful of snow. Snow slows down the freezing process and adds extra weight to ice.
- Check out the ice’s color. Soft ice is typically gray, dark or porous, while thick ice has a blue tint.
Let a friend or family member know where you plan on fishing and what time you’ll be arriving home. If you don't arrive home on time, then that person can alert authorities. If you are venturing out with someone else, it’s still a good idea to tell someone on land your plans.
For a high-tech way to be prepared, read what made our list of the 11 best outdoor apps to download, including must-have first aid and emergency contact apps.
Ice Fishing Safety Tips
Here are a few more tips to make sure your fishing trip is a safe and successful one.
- Dress warmly. Frostbite is a serious risk on cold winter days, so dressing in warm layers is key. Have your final layer be something waterproof and windproof.
- Wear a life vest under your clothes. Another option is a flotation snowmobile suit.
- Carry something sharp. If you fall in, you want something sharp that you can dig into the ice to help you out. Picks, ice claws and bear claws are all good options.
- Lay off the drinks. Even a little alcohol can put you at risk of making a dangerous mistake. Plus, contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not make you warmer.
Want a new place to adventure? Check out this list of recommended places around North America to ice fish. With any luck, you’ll enjoy a fun winter day and even catch a few fish.
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This story was originally published in 2016. It was updated with new information in 2019. Amanda Austin and Raychel Adiutori contributed to this story.