The warm weather after the frigid cold snap seems like a perfect recipe for heading to the lake for some ice fishing, but there are still some perils to heed.

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We hear the stories every year about someone's ice house or pickup falling through the ice, and unfortunately, those vehicles are not always unoccupied.

The record for the most vehicles falling through the ice at one time is 36, according to this story, Thankfully, no one was reported to have been injured.

In another story, over 100 fishermen in Minnesota had to be rescued after a sheet of ice drifted around 30 feet away from the shore.

Those are just some of the largest examples of when things can go wrong on the ice that, thankfully, did not end in tragedy. Looking through search results of people and vehicles falling through the ice over even the last couple years, the results are truly staggering

Here is some safety advice on how to make sure your trip on the ice brings you and your vehicle back home with a cooler full of fish:

Ice Fishing Safety

Among all subsets of the sportfishing market, ice fishing is expanding at a rapid pace. Despite the convenience and portability of open-water fishing, ice-belt diehards enjoy the challenge of drilling holes in the icy water.

Every year, more than 10,000 fishermen descend upon northern Minnesota for the world's biggest ice fishing event. Although ice fishing is an enjoyable outdoor activity, it must be done in a safe manner, prioritizing preparation and exercise.

You should know that no ice is "truly" safe to fish on before you even think about ice fishing. Ice fishermen with experience use a mix of common sense, past performance, and up-to-date knowledge.

You can't tell ice by looking at it or by measuring its thickness. The safety of the ice depends on a number of factors, including the amount of snowfall, the strength of the stream, the number of fish there, and the number of waterfowl in the area.

The surface of the ice may appear homogeneous, but what's really underlying is sometimes far from it.

Because snow acts as insulation, ice areas covered with snow can be quite dangerous. There can be eight inches of ice on one snow-free section and just three inches on the neighboring section.

Because the current can dissolve the underlying ice, ice that forms over moving water is inherently unstable. Because the current is stronger in confined spaces, you should exercise extra caution around bridges and channels.

Warm water is drawn up from the lake bottom on some lakes when schools of fish or ducks congregate. Another thing that can melt ice is all that fin, foot, and feather activity. To put it simply, fresh ice is more stable than old ice, and transparent ice is preferable to hazy ice.

The strength of old, cloudy ice is roughly half that of fresh, clear ice.


An average-sized angler can usually go out on four inches of fresh, transparent ice without fear. It is deemed too hazardous if it is smaller than 4 inches. Since the fish are usually eager to bite on the first ice, many experienced ice fishermen look forward to it. These fishermen bring only the essentials on their trips.

They keep checking the ice as they go, making tiny holes with a metal chisel. If you can't crack the ice with a chisel, it's probably safe to walk on it. Determine the thickness using a tape measure in the event that the chisel succeeds in breaking through.

A life jacket is also necessary for first ice. In cold water, a well-fitting life jacket will keep you floating in the event of a fall. If you're really cold when fishing, you might want to consider donning a full flotation suit.

For more traction when pulling oneself up onto the ice, ice picks are an additional essential piece of first-ice gear. Most fishermen just sling their picks around their necks since they need to have them close at hand. Finally, similar to a boat, remember to include a throwing rope.

To better spread the weight and lessen the likelihood of someone else falling through, stand as far away from the rope as it will allow when you need to pull someone out.

It is usually safe to use snowmobiles and ATVs for fishing when there is six inches of solid, clean ice. You should still inspect the ice every fifty yards, even when your mobility has improved.

Smaller vehicles and trucks will be able to drive on the lake if the ice thickness reaches 10 inches. When there is one foot of ice, it is usually safe to drive a medium-sized truck; when there is fifteen inches, full-sized trucks are employed. These are, once again, broad recommendations for fresh, transparent ice.

The use of cars obviously raises your risk because of their weight.

Do not fasten your seatbelt if you intend to drive on ice. Contrary to popular belief, seatbelts actually make it more time-consuming to get out of a car in an emergency. In case of an emergency, some fishermen even lower the windows of their vehicles or leave the door slightly ajar.

Slow down and be careful when driving on ice. Although speed limits are not often posted, it is highly advised to go faster than 20 mph since the ice gets damaged when vehicles' weight causes subsurface waves.

Also, you'll have more time to dodge obstacles if you drive slowly. To evenly distribute your vehicle's weight, park at least fifty feet away from other vehicles.

Extra Advice on Staying Safe

To get the latest ice report, call your neighborhood bait shop or getaway. Bait stores are often able to spot vulnerable spots or regions of weak ice. To illustrate the issue, consider the location of an aerator on a lake.

Take a fishing companion. Ice fishing is more fun and safer when you have someone to share the experience with. Even if it's a handy tool overall, a cell phone won't be of much use while you're trying to stay afloat.

Make sure someone knows when and where you're heading. Tell them when you intend to return—the most crucial thing of all. That way, if you end up being late, that individual can ask for assistance. Notify your backup person immediately if your plans alter.

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