Tips for Being Safe While Ice Fishing

As we continue to look for ways to recreate responsibly, many will turn to new outdoor activities.

A classic way to safely distance while still enjoying the outdoors is ice fishing. While lakes in the U.P. have been frozen for several weeks, water bodies down in southern Michigan are finally starting to freeze over. Ice fishing is a great way to reach fish you would normally need a boat to reach. As a relatively non-gear intensive sport, ice fishing can be a great way to bring a meal home of fresh fish.

Ice fishing is a great hobby, but being on ice over a frozen water body does come with a certain degree of risk. Keeping in mind no ice is ever 100% safe, there are a few things to keep in mind or share with your friends before you take your next trip.

  • Don’t go alone, bring someone along to enjoy the experience. Always let someone know when and where you are going out on the ice and what time you will be back.
  • Dress in layers, wear layers of clothing when you go ice fishing. This will allow you to remove layers if you get too warm.
  • Your head, feet and hands require the most protection when out in the elements. Wear a suitable winter hat and protect your face with a ski mask or scarf. Wear wool socks and bring gloves. Keep your clothes dry.
  • Wear a personal flotation device.
  • Ice varies in thickness and condition. Always carry an ice spud or chisel to check ice as you proceed.
  • Be extremely cautious crossing ice near river mouths, points of land, bridges, islands, and over reefs and springs. Current usually causes ice to be thinner over these areas.
  • Avoid going onto the ice if it has melted away from the shore. This indicates melting is underway, and ice can shift position as wind direction changes.
  • Waves from open water can quickly break up large areas of the ice. If you can see open water in the lake and the wind picks up, get off.
  • Bring your fully charged cell phone with you.
  • Carry a set of handspikes to help you work your way out onto the surface of the ice if you go through. Holding one in each hand, you can alternately punch them into the ice and pull yourself up and out. You can make these at home, using large nails, or you can purchase them at stores that sell fishing supplies.
  • Carry a safety line that can be thrown to someone who has gone through the ice.
  • Heated fishing shanties must have good ventilation to prevent deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. Open a window or the door part way to allow in the fresh air.

For a much more extensive list as well as tips and tricks visit


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