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Icefishing Safety and Tips

By Iain Loveman

Rules for Ice Fishing

  • It is best to always keep at least 3-4" of good, solid ice under you at all times.

  • New, clear ice is usually stronger than white ice that has thawed and refrozen, or black ice that is deteriorating.

  • Go icefishing with a friend, walk in single file, spread out, wear flotation gear, and check ice conditions often.

  • Tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back.

  • Carry a fully charged cell phone in a water tight plastic bag

  • Shore ice usually melts first during a thaw so head back early on warmer days when the ice is marginal.

  • Carry 50' of throwing rope in case a rescue is necessary.

  • The areas to avoid are around moving water, springs, roads, where plants or objects protrude thru the ice

Simple and Effective Ice Picks

Simple and Effective Homemade Ice Picks

Cut off 6" from a broom handle
Pound a nail in one end and grind to a point
Drill a hole thru the other ends and insert a cord long enough to thread thru your coat arms and across the shoulders leaving enough length to grip them in each hand.

Recommended Ice Thickness

2 inches or less STAY OFF

4 inches is Generally Safe for Ice Fishing Foot Traffic

5 inches Snowmobile

8 to 12 inches Car or Small PickUp

12 to 15 inches Medium PickUp


Ice is NEVER SAFE. Even if ice is a 12 inches thick in one area, it could be only inches thick a few feet away!

NEVER trust ice. It's ability to be safe can be influenced by many factors.


Loss of body heat to the water, is a major cause of deaths in boating and ice fishing accidents.

The leading cause of death is listed as drowning; but, often the primary cause is hypothermia.

It should also be noted that alcohol lowers the body temperature around two to three degrees by dilating the blood vessels.

Do not drink alcohol around cold water.

Keep in mind, wind and rain can also cause severe hypothermia.

If your boating a properly worn lifejacket and raingear are a must and a flotation suit for icefishing.

The following chart shows the effects of hypothermia in water:

Water Temperature


Survival Time


Over 80°



70° to 80°

3 to 12 Hours

3 Hours to Indefinite

60° to 70°

2 to 7 Hours

2 to 40 Hours

50° to 60°

1 to 2 Hours

1 to 6 Hours

40° to 50°

30 to 60 Minutes

1 to 3 Hours

32.5° to 40°

15 to 30 Minutes

30 to 90 Minutes


Under 15 Minutes

Under 15 to 45 Minutes

  Fishing Article Of Interest: Locating Icefishing Spots