Ice Fishing Safety Tips

Ice fishing can be a great outdoor activity. You’ve got your gear & thermos and are ready to head out on the ice for a great day of fun in the beautiful outdoors. With the following safety tips, you can also be guaranteed a SAFE day on the ice.

First, it is important to understand a few things about the ice.

1. Old ice is not nearly as strong as new ice. While you may think that a foot of ice is plenty to support you, it may not be. Old ice may be partially thawed and therefore unstable, while just 4 inches of new, clear ice may be able to sustain one person on foot.

2. Ice rarely freezes consistently across an area. In one location it may be a foot thick while just a few feet away it may only be a few inches thick.

3. Ice that is formed near a flowing current can be dangerous as well. Be especially careful around ice that is formed near culverts, bridges and streams as currents tend to be stronger and ice more precarious. Also, check ice near river bends as this ice may also be thinner due to the undermining effects of a faster current in these areas.

4. Snow has an insulating effect on ice and slows down the freezing process. The extra weight of snow also diminishes how much weight the ice can hold. Beware of ice near the shoreline as well, as this ice tends to be thinner than ice that is further out.

5. When you hear the ice booming & cracking it doesn’t necessarily mean danger. Often it just means that the ice ice is expanding and contracting due to temperature changes. However, you should always be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to ensure your safety.

6. The movement of fish or waterfowl can often bring warmer water to the surface. This can cause ice to become unpredictable and even potentially open up holes in the ice.

7. An ice fishing basic is knowing how thick ice should be for your particular activity. Below is a chart with the recommended minimum ice thickness depending on your activity. Note: These guidelines are for new, clear, solid ice.

  • 2″ or less – STAY OFF

  • 4″ – Ice fishing & on foot activities

  • 5″ – Snowmobile or ATV

  • 8″ – 12″ – Car or small pickup

  • 12″ – 15″ – Medium truck

A few safety points to remember should you need to travel on ice:

  • Check with a local bait shop or resort on ice thickness in the area. Also, test the ice yourself using an ice chisel or auger.

  • Try to avoid driving on ice whenever possible.

  • Be sure to have proper ice fishing & safety gear. Carry ice picks as a safety precaution. You never know when they may come in handy!

  • Most importantly, trust your guides’ advice. They are the professionals and you hired them for a reason!

At Jack’s Charter Service, our captains and ice fishing guides have many years of experience and will be able to keep you safe during your ice fishing trip in Milwaukee or Racine. They know the area and what to expect, in addition to what rods and bait you will need for a successful catch. Contact us to book your next Wisconsin ice fishing adventure today!