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Ice Fishing Safety Tips

Published on Mar 8, 2021 | Last updated Mar 8, 2021 5 minute read

Ice Fishing Safety Tips

During winter months, many Canadians choose to embrace the cold by partaking in various outdoor activities. One popular activity involves flocking to a frozen lake and spending time ice fishing. Not only does it provide you with a reason to be outside, it can also provide the opportunity of catching your supper!

Ice fishing is a lot of fun, however, it is crucial to be savvy when it comes to fishing on ice. You have to know your surroundings and be properly prepared with the right gear to enjoy this venture.

Keeping that in mind, here are a few tips before going ice fishing.

Wear appropriate ice fishing clothes

Keeping your head, hands, and feet dry and warm is essential. Just because the sun is out, doesn’t mean it’s warm enough to fish in a t-shirt. Save the tanning for summer fishing.

  • Dress in layers.
  • Wear thermal underwear under your clothes to keep in the heat.
  • Wear waterproof ski pants and a jacket.
  • Protect your head, face, and neck.
  • Wear boots rated for the type of cold you plan to fish in. Make sure they are water resistant so your feet stay dry. Also, wear appropriate socks. Crew socks might not keep your toes to warm!
  • Make sure your gloves are thick and waterproof (pack a couple of pairs – one for handling the fish, another for keeping dry).

Dressing appropriately will help protect you against frostbite and hypothermia, as well as helping you stay comfortable while on your trip. If you’re not prepared with the warm clothing, your ice fishing trip won’t be much fun.

Prepare your ice fishing and safety gear

Avid ice fishers can spend a fortune on expensive equipment to increase their chances of catching their dinner. However, it’s important to know the difference between what you need and what might be nothing more than an expensive toy! Here’s our list of essential items:

  • Jigging ice fishing rod and reel.
  • Bait container stocked with live bait. Tip: add water and salt so the fish don’t freeze.
  • Terminal tackle such as line clippers, fish grabbers, pliers, hooks, sinkers.
  • Ice fishing tip-ups.
  • Ice auger and skimmer. Ensure you read the owner’s manual before operating.
  • Ice fishing shack. If it is windy, this gives you a break from being out in the elements.

With any trip you should always keep emergencies in mind. Hopefully you won’t need to use these items, but it’s important to bring them, just in case:

  • First-aid kit
  • Portable heaters
  • Flashlight
  • Medicines
  • Floatation suits
  • Plenty of food and water
  • Radio
  • Cellphone

Gauge ice thickness and assess water

It’s important that the ice you fish on is safe, keeping in mind that ice is never 100% safe. Ice thickness can change very quickly; if you are unsure about its thickness, postpone your plans.

Before you start fishing, check the ice thickness by drilling a hole. Go a few feet and drill a second (check) hole to see how thick the ice is.

Here are some guidelines for ice thickness:

  • 7 cm (3 in) or less – STAY OFF! There is considerable risk of breaking through on foot.
  • 10 cm (4 in) – The ice is considered safe for ice fishing on foot. It is generally safe to walk on.
  • 12 cm (5 in) – The ice is considered thick enough for a snowmobile or ATV
  • 20-30 cm (8-12 in) – Ice is considered safe for a car or small pick up truck
  • 30-38 cm (12-15 in) – Ice is considered safe for a medium truck

Do you know your ice?

Soft ice is typically gray, and dark, while thick ice has a blue tint. Ice also doesn’t freeze in a uniform way – the ice conditions can be considerably different just a few feet away. Always use caution. If you are driving your vehicle on the ice always follow this advice:

  • Drive carefully and maintain a safe distance between vehicles. Unbuckle your seatbelt and roll down your windows in case your vehicle falls through the ice.
  • Avoid driving on the ice at night. Even with bright headlights, it is more difficult to spot the thin, cracked, or slushy patches of ice.
  • Make sure your vehicle has winter tires on.
  • Always ensure you are operating your vehicle based on the winter conditions.

Knowing the lake you’re fishing on makes the experience safer and more fun. Talk to other people that have fished on the lake to know the typical conditions and other information pertinent to the lake.

Share your fishing plans

Always make your plans known to family and friends. Tell them when you plan to leave, where you are going and when you plan to return. This way, if something happens to you, they know where to send help. Having a successful trip where the fish are biting and you decide to stay longer than planned? Let them know your change in plans. It’s not only more fun to fish with family and friends. It’s safer. Never go alone.

Contact BrokerLink to get the right protection coverage

Always check your insurance before you venture out on an ice fishing trip. Some auto insurance policies have restrictions when it comes to driving on the ice. An insurance broker can help you determine if you have the right coverage.

It’s easy to get in touch with a BrokerLink insurance broker!

Ice Fishing Safety Tips FAQs

Is it okay to use a sled when ice fishing?

A calf sled can be a great asset on an ice fishing trip. It can help transport your gear if you are entering the lake on foot. Always ensure you’re aware of the ice thickness.

When is it safe to ride a snowmobile to go ice fishing?

Ensure the ice thickness is at least 12 cm (5in) before taking a snowmobile onto an iced over lake or river.

When is the best time to go ice fishing?

Every lake is different and so are the biting habits of different fish. Experienced ice anglers tend to fish a couple of hours after sunrise and/or a few hours before sunset. This is typically when fish will feed. For safety reasons it’s wise to leave a lake before dark. It is harder to navigate where you are going and it is harder to see your surroundings once the sun goes down.