Is Ice Fishing Dangerous? Important Safety Tips!

Is Ice Fishing Dangerous

Anglers like to fish year-round and more and more of them are discovering the beauty of ice fishing.

From wild and distant locations to lakes near towns which attract a number of people, ice fishing is becoming very popular.

Some even bring their children or pets to participate in this adventure. However, the dangers of ice fishing shouldn’t be underestimated.

Ice fishing is dangerous. Falling through the ice, hypothermia, frostbites, injuries and many other dangers are related to ice fishing.

To stay safe and have a good fishing day instead of a disaster, you should be prepared and follow basic safety rules. This is especially important for unexperienced anglers.

To know more about dangers of ice fishing and ice fishing safety, read the following chapters:



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The Hidden Dangers of Ice Fishing

There are many dangers of ice fishing, but inexperienced anglers often forget about those not so obvious ones. That makes them even more important and that is why I will mention them first.

The colour of the ice

Everyone will check the ice thickness, but ice colour will tell you a lot about the quality of ice.

Clear, blue, ice is the strongest type of ice. It will be stable, withstand pressure and won’t break easily. If the thickness is right, clear ice is the safest option to walk/drive on.

White ice is not as good as clear ice, but if the thickness is right you can still go on top of it.

However, you should be cautious, check the thickness regularly as you walk over and listen to the sounds. Additionally, white ice has to be twice as thick as the blue ice to support the same weight. If you hear some serous cracking, leave the location.

Grey or “dirty white” is completely unsafe and should always be avoided!


Currents are one of the hidden dangers of ice fishing too.

Familiarize yourself with the water and the area before going onto the ice. Rivers, streams, channels, and moving waters in general always have thinner ice.

The danger is if there is a creek or any kind of running water entering the lake. You will measure the ice thickness on the lake, consider it safe, and start walking.

If you end up on top of the area where the water is not stationary, the ice will suddenly become about 10-20% thinner. And there is a chance that it will not withstand the weight. Be aware of running water and currents underneath the ice.

Carbon monoxide and burns

When you think about ice fishing, burns are the last thing that come to our minds. In extremely low temperatures, especially on longer expeditions, anglers often bring all kinds of heaters to keep them warm.

Those heaters are installed in ice fishing tents to make the situation as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately, faulty heaters, or heaters that are not certified for indoor use can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. This gas has no smell or tase, it is impossible to recognize it and symptoms are various, from headache and nausea to sleepiness. If exposed for too long, it can result in death.

So, always use proper heaters and read the manufacturers instructions. Ventilate your tent frequently.

Another problem with faulty heaters or powerful heaters in small space are fires. Tents can catch a fire and burn fast because of their material. Make sure the heater is not in contact with the sides of a tent and regularly check it.


Sitting on a fishing chair and monitoring your rod doesn’t require a lot of physical activity. And because it is cold, you will not sweat a lot.

It may seem like hydrating yourself is not important. When it is cold, your body is using a lot of energy to maintain the temperature and you need to eat and drink regularly.

Cold and dry air will also speed up the dehydration. Always have a bottle of water nearby and drink regularly, even if you do not feel thirsty. Try to avoid alcohol.


Fishing after sunset can be very fun and productive, however, navigating through icy terrain and finding your way back can be very hard.

You will not be able to see very well. Even if you have a lamp, and you could get disoriented. This is especially dangerous if you are in some wild location, without a vehicle. So, always have a GPS and a fully-charged phone with you.

Ice Fishing Safety Tips

Here I will list the ice fishing safety tips.

By following those, you will minimize the chance of accidents ...

Ice thickness check

The minimum thickness, of a quality, clear ice, should be at least 4 inches (10 cm) for walking, 6-7 (15-18 cm) for an ATV or a snowmobile, 10-12 (25-30 cm) for a car and over 14 inches (35 cm) for a small truck.

If the ice is white or looking suspicious, the thickness should be double.

Before going onto the ice, drill a hole and take a measuring tape. Measure the thickness. Repeat the process regularly until you reach the desired spot.

Avoid frostbites

Always have your fingers and toes protected with waterproof and warm gloves, and boots. Use a facemask to protect your nose. Dress in multiple, warm, layers.

Use creepers and ice picks

Creepers will increase friction when you walk over ice and minimize the chance of slipping and falling.

Small ice picks should be a part of your essential equipment too, and you should have them on you so that you can pull yourself out if the ice breaks.

Announce travel plans and gather information

Going ice fishing alone is not advisable, but if you must do it, tell a friend where you are going and what you plan to do.

Pick a spot with other anglers near by so that you can help each other. Go to a nearby tackle shop or contact local anglers to get all of the relevant information about a certain location. They will warn you about possible dangers which are not obvious.

Have a communication and navigation device

Your mobile phone should be fully charged and ready to use.

If you are going on a longer trip, bring additional chargers to make sure your battery doesn’t run out. Electronical devices, especially phones, can be sensitive to moisture and cold, so bringing a radio as a backup is advisable.

GPS is available on phones, but because phones are not that reliable, think about some portable navigation device.

Adjust the driving technique

Always drive slowly. If you are in a car or a truck, unbuckle your seatbelt and open the windows.

If you fall through, you will be able to evacuate easily. For those driving an ATV or a snowmobile, it is also advisable to drive slowly.

Invest in a float suit

This is the most important piece of clothing you will ever have.

Buy a quality float suit because it could save your life. If you find those expensive or don’t like them, buy and wear a small life vest. Besides, having a float suit isn’t just for floating, it will protect you from wind and outside elements, it is water-resistant and makes a great outer layer.

Be careful with an auger

A good auger is sharp and efficient. Especially those that are powered.

Be careful when drilling holes and avoid injuries. If you are using powered augers, make sure you do not have any loose clothes hanging around because those could get caught by an auger. Always have a blade cover for the auger to prevent accidental injuries when auger is not in use.

Mark the ice fishing holes

If not for you, do this for your fellow anglers. If the location is crowded, or if there are children involved, put a small flag or anything highly visible on the edge of the hole to warn others. And be very careful when leaving the lake, especially during night. Lakes full of holes are extremely dangerous.

Many anglers use tip ups for ice fishing that are usually well visible due to bright flags that serve as bite indicators. Besides, these devices let you fish multiple holes at once, so there will be less unattended holes that can be dangerous for others. Another option are ice fishing tip downs that are also great for increasing your fishing success, as well as for marking the holes.

Listen and observe

Be present in the moment. Listen to the ice and notice the sound of unusual cracking.

Look at the ice surrounding you and search for signs of damaged ice. If there are some cracks, holes or water on top, change the location.

Be aware of your surroundings, it could save your life.

Is Ice Fishing Dangerous? Safety Tips for Ice!

What to Do in Case of an Accident?

Unfortunately, even if you practice all the safety measures, accidents can happen.

First of all, you always have to carry first-aid kit. Additionally, have a rope and blankets with a set of spare clothes. Keep it near by because it will not help you if it is stored in your car 30 minutes’ walk away from the ice.

If someone falls through the ice, react fast, you only have a few minutes!

Throw them a rope from a safe distance and pull them out. Do not come very close to the hole because the ice is apparently damaged.

When the person is out of the water pull them towards you.

They shouldn’t stand up immediately because when they are on the floor, they occupy a larger surface and their weight is distributed. If they stand up on the edge of the hole, their weight will be concentrated on a small area and the person can fall through again.

When they are safely out, help them remove wet clothes and warm them up in blankets.

If you have a heater, place a person nearby. When they are dry and warm, give them spare clothes to wear.

If you suspect hypothermia or the person is not getting better after a few minutes, immediately call for help or transport them to the nearest hospital.

What to do if you fall in hypothermia?

And there is no one to help you? Follow these steps to save yourself:

Calm down and try breathing, you have about 2 minutes before the shock comes in.

Kick your legs hard and position yourself towards the ice where you fell in.

• If you have ice picks, try pulling yourself up. Don’t damage the ice by strongly impaling ice picks, use them for friction.

Get your forearms out, keep pulling the upper body part out while strongly kicking with your legs.

• When you get out, remain on the floor, don’t stand up, and roll to safety.

• Immediately remove wet clothes, dry up and get dressed into the spare clothes.

If you do not have ice picks, pull yourself with hands. However, that is extremely hard and that’s why you should always have self-help tools with you.

If you are alone, immediately call for help, hypothermia can occur even if you feel well.


Ice fishing is fun and exciting, but it can quickly turn into a disaster.

So, always be aware of the dangers, be well prepared and get to know the area before going onto the ice.

Don’t go alone and don’t think “nothing will happen today” because accidents occur when you least expect it.

Follow all the rules and advice stated in the article and enjoy a safe ice fishing trip.

And one more tip in the end, always tell someone when do you plan to get back. Even if you are going with a group of people.

If you do not come back in time, that person can call for help.

About Me

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I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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