Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Be Safe on the Ice

By Bob Humphrey

Folks from more temperate regions may think it’s crazy, but a good many fishermen will be headed out onto the ice this winter to enjoy some hard-water fishing. If you’re among them, here are a few tips to ensure you have a fun and safe outing.

Don’t Be First

Being sooner to fishing spot may be key for open water fishermen but when it comes to ice fishing it’s sometimes better to be later. Ask around, check with the local bait shop, internet sites or your fish and game agency to determine when it’s safe to venture out on the hard water. Let someone else go first.

Don’t Trust It

Even if it looks safe and others are already out there, check ice thickness with a chisel, ice auger or even a cordless drill with a long bit before setting traps.

Bring Safety Gear

Even if it’s safe, you should still bring along some safety gear including: life jackets or at least an approved flotation cushion, hand-held ice picks for pulling yourself out and a length of heavy rope should you have to rescue others. You might also bring along an extra blanket or two and a first aid kit.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offers the following guidelines for new, clear solid ice only. Extra caution is advised for other ice conditions.

  • 2" or less - STAY OFF
  • 4" - Ice fishing or other activities on foot
  • 5" - Snowmobile or ATV
  • 8" - 12" - Car or small pickup
  • 12" - 15" - Medium truck

White ice or "snow ice" is only about half as strong as new clear ice. Double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.

If you do drive a snowmobile or ATV on the ice, wear flotation, drive slowly and stick to areas previously traveled by other vehicles.

And last but not least, never fish alone.

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