Safety Tips For Ice Fishing

Ice fishing season is here and at FishVault, we want to make sure all of our subscribers are as safe as possible while fishing on the "hard water". Listed below are some ice fishing tips, tricks, and most importantly, safety pointers that you should consider before your next ice fishing adventure.

Ice Thickness

Probably the most obvious thing to check right off the bat is the thickness of the ice. This is the make or break (no pun intended) factor that will ultimately determine the rest of your ice fishing experience. While most anglers know intuitively that thin ice can be extremely dangerous, fewer may know that white ice or "snow ice" is only about half as strong as new clear ice. Follow the ice thickness recommendations below to maximize fishing safety:

  • 2' or less – STAY OFF
  • 4' – Ice fishing or other activities on foot
  • 5' – Snowmobile or ATV
  • 8' – 12' – Car or small pickup
  • 12' – 15' – Medium truck

It is important to note that the figures above are for NEW ICE (clear ice). If you are dealing with snowy, white ice, you should double the measurements to ensure safe conditions.

More Ice Safety Tips

  • New ice is usually stronger than old ice. Four inches of clear, newly formed ice may support one person on foot, while a foot or more of old, partially thawed ice may not.
  • Ice seldom freezes uniformly. It may be a foot thick in one location and only an inch or two just a few feet away.
  • Ice formed over flowing water and currents is often dangerous. This is especially true near streams, bridges and culverts. Also, the ice outside river bends is usually weaker due to the undermining effects of the faster current.
  • The insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process. The extra weight also reduces how much weight the ice sheet can support. Also, ice near shore can be weaker than ice that is farther out.
  • Booming and cracking ice isn't necessarily dangerous. It only means that the ice is expanding and contracting as the temperature changes.
  • Schools of fish or flocks of waterfowl can also adversely affect the relative safety of ice. The movement of fish can bring warm water up from the bottom of the lake. In the past, this has opened holes in the ice causing snowmobiles and cars to break through.

(Tips Provided by MN and MI Dept. Of Natural Resources)

Ice Fishing Techniques

  • Jigging – Whether using an ice fishing rod or hook-and-line method while fishing on the ice, a good technique to try is jigging. You can use ice fishing jigging lures or live ice fishing bait while ice fishing jigging.
  • Tightlining – Ice fishing tightlining is a technique in which the angler merely drops the lure in the water, then watches the line for movement. When the line becomes "tight" you know you have something on it.
  • Tip Ups – Ice fishing tip ups are devices set on the ice above fishing holes that dangle bait beneath them using a flag as a strike indicator. When a fish takes the bait, the reel turns and releases the line and flag at the same time. The flag "tips up" alerting the angler something is on the line.

There is no need to stay inside during the long winter months waiting for the sun to come out and dreaming about open water and summer fun. Be adventurous, bundle up, get outside and give ice fishing a try. And as always, if you need the best fishing gear and most popular tackle, subscribe and get a monthly fishing subscription from FishVault.