Is Ice Fishing Safe?

Is Ice Fishing Safe?

Ice fishing is probably one of the fastest-growing segments of the entire sportfishing industry.

Enthusiastic anglers across the world prefer drilling holes in the hard water to the ease and mobility of open water fishing.

In fact, the largest ice fishing tournament in the world is held annually in northern Minnesota and attracts more than 10,000 anglers every year.

During these winter months, frozen lakes host an abundance of ice activities. Anglers as well as ice shanties and recreational vehicles are a common scene.

However, while many enjoy these activities on the ice, these activities may lead to serious injury unless the proper precautions are taken.

So before you head out onto the ice this winter, take note of these safety tips.

How dangerous is ice fishing?

Fisherman In Ice Water

Ice fishing isn’t all fun in the sun, or shall we say ice.

It can be dangerous if you don’t take the necessary precautions. For example, if the ice is too thin, you run the risk of falling in or your vehicle falling in.

Some of the other risks involved include carbon monoxide poisoning from incorrectly used heaters and frostbite from exposure to the cold and wind.

You should always dress in layers when ice fishing.

Not only will the layers help to keep you insulated, but in the event that you’re getting too warm, you can always remove one piece at a time.

Start with a bottom layer made from a material that will keep you dry, such as polypropylene. Adding a heavy shirt, pants, and socks helps as well.

Top it off with a wool fleece sweater and make sure to always cover your extremities, which are often the first to get frostbite.

Wearing lined mittens and a wool hat that covers your ears is good too.

Also, don’t forget your waterproof boots, which should be roomy enough to fit an extra pair of socks and creepers, which are spiked shoes that help you stay upright on the ice.

Additionally, before you head out, you should check the ice with an auger, measuring tape or stick.

The ice should be at least 3 to 6 inches thick to walk on and at least 7 inches thick to drive on with a car and 10 inches thick to drive on with a truck.

If you walk onto the ice, make test holes with an auger at specific or regular intervals to make sure it hasn’t thinned out.

Areas with cracked ice should always be avoided, and you should listen for loud booms, which could indicate that the ice is shifting, and this is very dangerous.

How many inches of ice is safe for ice fishing?

Measuring Ice Thickness

Whenever you are on the ice, one factor that you should always bear in mind is safety.

This is especially in early winter and late spring. It is during these times that the ice conditions are at its worst, and anglers are at the highest risk of falling through.

So it is crucial to recognize different ice conditions and know how to avoid danger. Here’s an overview of what you need to know.

When it comes to fishing on ice, there are several factors that determine the ice thickness such as the type of water, air temperature, location, water temperature, the size of the body of the water, water depth as well as the presence of underwater springs or currents, especially when it comes to rivers and creeks.

Perhaps the first question you should be asking yourself before going ice fishing is, has it been cold enough outside for a long enough period of time to create ice that is safe to fish on?

And if you can’t confidently answer yes to that question, then it’s not time to go ice fishing.

When you do visit a frozen body of water, you should conduct a visual inspection before heading out. Look for signs of cracks on the surface, which is usually an indicator of instability.

Water sitting on top of the ice is definitely an indication of melting, and ice will first melt along the shoreline edges.

Also, be careful around rocks, docks, and logs as they absorb heat from the sun, which ultimately leads to melting the surrounding ice much faster, alternatively causing ice to form much slower.

If you find that ice is soft on the edges, then you should stay off it. And if you think that you can jump over soft ice in the hopes of landing on good ice, then this could prove to be rather unwise.

The color of the ice is usually a good indicator of whether it is safe or not. The strongest and safest type of ice to go ice fishing on is clear blue ice.

This forms when the temperature is -8°C for three consecutive weeks. The colder it gets, the faster the blue ice forms.

Blue ice, at a minimum thickness of 12 inches, would even support a large vehicle such as a midsize pickup. White opaque ice is half as strong as blue ice.

This is formed when snow freezes on top of already existing ice. It’s often referred to as “snow ice,” and it’s the most dangerous when it forms on top of ice that isn’t completely frozen.

When this happens, the ice below takes longer to freeze and turns into blue ice. So when heading into snow-covered ice, take extreme precaution and check the thickness every 100 meters with your ice auger.

If you notice that the ice is a dull gray color, then this is the least safe because it is rotting.

The gray coloration indicates the presence of water, meaning that ice will not support much weight if any.

During the spring months, gray ice is rather common and can be found near moving water, such as with rivers and creeks that flow into or leave a body of water.

So ultimately, and according to the Lifesaving society, clear blue ice needs to be at least 4 inches thick in order to support the weight of an average person.

So this is something that you should bear in mind before going ice fishing.

Why is clear ice so dangerous?

Crystal Clear Ice

When it comes to clear ice, an average-sized angler is generally safe to venture out on foot if it is at least 4 inches thick.

However, anything less than 4 inches is considered too risky.

Many anglers look forward to the first ice, which is often clear, and when fish are usually eager to bite, however, you should conduct a test with your auger to make sure that the ice is at least 4 inches thick before even attempting ice fishing as it could prove to be too risky.

Is it safe to fish when the outside temperature is above freezing?

In some cases, even though temperatures are above freezing and ice looks safe, it may not necessarily be safe enough to go ice fishing.

When temperatures are above freezing, ice will start to thaw, and even if the ice looks safe enough to fish on, the best advice would be to steer clear of any type of ice fishing activity until temperatures start to drop and there is a solid foundation for the ice.


Icefishing is a wonderful past time during the winter season.

However, it’s always safer when you take the necessary precautions. For example, fishing with a friend is better than fishing alone.

In fact, fishing with a friend turns out to be better than fishing with a cell phone. Although a cell phone is a helpful tool, it’s not very useful when you’re treading water.

So it’s always a good idea to take company along and let your family and friends know where you will be fishing, how long you’ll be out fishing and when you’re going to return.

If you plan on extending your fishing trip, let your family members and friends know so they don’t worry unnecessarily.

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