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Ice Fishing Necessities & Safety

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

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Ice fishing can be one of the most enjoyable, relaxing, bonding experiences for people that like experiencing what Mother Nature has to offer. But if the proper precautions are not taken, it can also be a dangerous activity. Before taking off for your first ice fishing excursion, consider the best practices and extra safety precautions you need to take to be prepared. There are a few more threats compared to fishing in unfrozen water.

Ice Depth

If you are planning to go out onto the ice, there are various depths you need to consider. Just because you step out onto the ice and it doesn’t break, doesn’t mean it’s safe to go out for some fishing.

Ice fishing must be done where the ice is at least 4 inches thick. To ride a snowmobile or ATV on ice, it must be 5-6 inches thick. And if you plan on driving a vehicle on the ice, it must be at least 8 inches thick for small vehicles and at least 12 inches thick for larger vehicles.

You can check the depth of the ice by drilling a hole and sliding a ruler or tape measure into the hole. There are plenty of drill options to choose from, including hand cranks or electric drills. And they vary in width as well.

Safety Precautions

Just like planning for a non-frozen fishing trip, there are precautions you need to take to prepare and stay safe on the water. Research and stay up to date on weather conditions and sky visibility when planning your ice fishing trip. It can be extra dangerous if a storm hits while you are out on the ice.

It can be dangerous to ice fish alone. So, it is suggested that you go with a friend or with a group of people. However, if you do go alone, make sure that someone is aware of your whereabouts and when you plan to be back. You should also bring along a phone, radio, or another communication device.

It is also highly suggested to ice fish when there is daylight. Ice fishing in the dark can bring about additional dangers when there is less visibility, and you are unable to see holes, cracks, and objects on the ice. Wear metal ice cleats to avoid slipping and wear a float suit or have a flotation device nearby.

Stay Warm

Staying warm while ice fishing is essential. Layer up! It is better to wear more clothing layers than less and take them off if you get too hot. Wear a balaclava or neck gaiter to cover your face from cold and wind. Big Daddy’s neck gaiter can be used for coverage during all weather conditions. Stuff foot and hand warmers into your shoes and gloves to avoid frostbite on your outer extremities. And if you have an ice shelter, it is recommended to use a heat source to stay warm inside.

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Big Daddy Neck Gaiter

Items to Bring Ice Fishing

  • Cell phone, GPS, or radio- Communication is essential, especially if fishing alone. If there is spotty phone service, a backup communication device should be brought with you.

  • Ice picks- Ice picks are a safety tool used for pulling yourself out of the water by hand if you fall through the ice. Keep it strapped to your waist.

  • Ice auger- A drill used to put holes in the ice. You can choose from a variety of hand cranks or electric powered drills.

  • Tip-up- A tip-up is a device used to suspend live or frozen bait at a set depth through a hole drilled in the ice with an auger, to detect fish strikes while ice fishing.

  • Throw rope– A throw rope is most used for emergency rescues while ice fishing to reach someone in a dangerous area.

  • Emergency/Space blanket- A heat-reflective thin, plastic sheet used for emergency survival situations.

  • Flotation device- Whether you wear a flotation suit or have another form of flotation nearby, it is a must-have when ice fishing. Ice can crack easily leading to fishermen or women falling into the water. A flotation device can save you from the possibility of hypothermia and death.

  • Bucket seat- Having the option to sit down while out fishing is important to avoid exhaustion. Big Daddy’s Dumper can act as a seat and a portable bathroom! Stick a bag in the bucket and place the Big Daddy Dumper on top for easy cleanup and disposal.

  • Ice shelter- A good ice shelter protects you from wind, snow, and other treacherous weather conditions. Portable or pop-up ice shelters are great for you to take to any ice fishing location for protection. These enclosures often have the option to be heated.

  • Fishing rods and tackle- For any type of fishing, don’t forget your rods and tackle! There are also specific lures, jigs, and other fishing equipment that people like to use for ice fishing.

  • Sled or snowmobile– It can be a daunting workout to drag your materials out to your fishing spot on the ice. If you have a snowmobile, great! Make sure the ice is thick enough to ride it out. Otherwise, bring along a sled with a long rope so you can fill it with your gear and pull it.

Most of all, have fun! Bring some games, warm drinks, and create stories that will last a lifetime. And don’t forget to share pictures of your catch!


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