ice fishing

Checking ice thickness on Medicine Lake 


With the kickoff of the ice fishing season, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds new and veteran anglers alike of their responsibility to keep themselves safe and to be a considerate member of the ice angling community.

Some of Minnesota’s most popular winter fisheries, such as Upper Red Lake, have drawn remarkably high numbers of anglers already this season, while in other places people are patiently waiting for a cold snap to make the ice thick enough to walk on.

“Conservation officers have seen higher-than-usual numbers of people on the ice where it’s thick enough, and we expect that to continue,” said Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR Enforcement Division. “We just want to make sure everyone has a safe season.”

Safety first

The recommended minimum thickness for walking on new, clear ice is 4 inches. Wait for 5 to 7 inches before heading out on an ATV or snowmobile, and keep cars off until there’s 8 to 12 inches. Anyone planning to drive out in a truck, should wait until there’s at least 12 to 15 inches of ice. Double these minimums for white or snow-covered ice.

•Wear a life jacket or float coat on the ice (except when in a vehicle).

•Carry ice picks, rope, an ice chisel and tape measure.

•Check ice thickness at regular intervals; conditions can change quickly.

•Bring a cell phone or personal locator beacon.

•Don’t go out alone; tell someone about trip plans and expected return time.

•Before heading out, inquire about conditions and known hazards with local experts.

If you see someone fall through, remain calm and call 911. Do not attempt a rescue unless there is a means of self-rescue. Throw the person any piece of buoyant gear available, as well as a rope, jumper cables or other object to pull them out of the water or away from thin ice. Let go if they start pulling you toward dangerous ice.

•Be a positive member of the ice fishing community

•Following are some things for all ice anglers to keep in mind:

•Pick up after yourself. Anything but an impression left on the ice is litter.

•Minimize noise, and remember to keep a respectful distance from other anglers.

For more information on staying safe on the ice, visit the ice safety page. For the basics of ice fishing, visit the learn to ice fish page at

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