Stay Safe While Ice Fishing

Yamaha Grizzly ATV parked on a frozen lake

Safe Ice Thickness Infographic
Ice Thickness Guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
When is it safe to go out on the ice? According to the Minnesota State Department of Natural Resources, if the the ice is less than two inches thick, stay off. For Ice Fishing, the ice should be at least 4 inches thick. If you’re planning to take your ATV or Snowmobile out on the lake, new-clear-ice needs to be AT LEAST 5″ thick. According to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, five inches of ice will support an 800 pound snowmobile. Please remember that these are minimum thicknesses. Thicker is better.
Man kneeling on frozen lake measuring ice thickness. A Ski-Doo Snowmobile parked in the background.
A State Official from Maine measures lake Ice Thickness

Yamaha Grizzly ATV parked on a frozen lake
An Ice-Auger mounted to Yamaha ATV. Ready to drill and fish.
Play it safe and spread your machines apart when you park on the ice.
Scatter them around your shanties. If there were to be a crack develop, it’s bad enough to lose one machine, better yet the whole fleet. You’ve got to have a backup plan for how to get back to the mainland when you’re out on the ice.

Baffin Mens SnoSport Boot in Black
The SnoSport Boot features a Polar-Rubber Outer Sole and a Breathable, Waterproof-Upper.
If you are planning to head out on the ice this winter, please do so safely.
Dress to stay warm and dry. A good pair of boots, snow gloves and the right hat or balakva can make a huge difference towards keeping you comfortable for a long day on the ice. Experienced ice fishermen will tell you, the coldest part of the day is the ride out and back. Once you get out to where you are planning to fish, you’ll be moving around and generating body heat. Cover up as much skin as you can to avoid the risks of frostbite and hypothermia.

Make sure your machine is ready before you venture out on the ice.

ATV with track conversion outfitted with rear cargo box and power auger mount.
This guy says he never gets stuck.

These are extreme conditions out on the lake in February. A few hours in the garage at home doing preventative maintenance can mean the difference between a great day fishing and a cold night walking back to the mainland.

Check and top off all fluids.
Check and charge your battery. Before you hook up the charger, top off the acid if it’s low.
Plug that leaky tire. You’ll want to reduce air pressure but you don’t want them flat.

Pack a kit. Be prepared.
Carry a set of jumper cables or a jump box. I also recommend a snatchy. A snatchy is my slang for a tow strap. Pack a spare pair of socks, gloves and a hat in a resealable bag. If you need them,you’ll thank me.

Make sure your cell phone is charged. Take your charger an a 12-volt adapter. Consider carrying a GPS. I’ve heard of hardcore anglers that brave the extremes. Seven miles offshore on ice sounds nerveracking to me. With the thick cloud cover we know to expect from December through March can be disorienting when you’re far enough from shore that there are no landmarks.

Use the buddy system if you’re heading out on the ice. Find an experienced old timer for your first trip ice fishing. In extreme conditions you’ve got to have a plan. Trust the wisdom of an experienced angler. Only go Ice Fishing during the day. Know what time the sun will be setting, and plan on being back to your vehicle by then.

Resources

MN-DNR Ice Thickness Guidelines

PA Fish and Boat Commission Is The Ice Safe PDF