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Is Ice Fishing Easy? 

This is a common question for beginners. The answer is somewhat of a yes-and-no scenario. 

Yes, ice fishing can be easy. When ice conditions allow for easy travel and you find fish quickly, you can sometimes — quite literally — sit overtop of a school of fish and catch one after another. You also only need a few gear essentials to get started.

On the other hand, ice fishing is challenging at times. Trudging through deep snow on foot is hard work. Also, fish can concentrate in certain areas in winter and, as such, it can take time to find them. More, certain fish, like crappie and trout, can be notoriously fickle biters. Like any type of angling though, part of what makes ice fishing fun is overcoming the day’s challenges and successfully finding and catching fish.

Ice Safety

Ice fishing safety should always be your number one priority ice fishing. The cold, harsh reality is ice is never 100% safe. Ice conditions will vary on a waterbody. Ice doesn’t freeze at a consistent thickness. Current, temperature, freeze-thaw cycles, pressure cracks, snow cover and old ice holes are just a few variables impacting ice conditions.

It’s critical to check ice conditions and thickness to determine whether they are favorable for ice fishing. Begin by checking the ice close to shore by drilling a hole with an ice auger (or chipping one with an ice chisel), then using a tape measure, or ice scoop with a ruler on its handle, to measure it. If you assess the ice quality and thickness are good, continue towards your fishing spot, frequently measuring ice thickness along the way. 

The following ice thickness chart summarizes general guidelines of minimum ice thickness for new, solid, clear ice found on several State DNR websites. Note, layered and honeycombed ice, along with a snow-ice mix, are weaker and unable to support as much weight.

  • Under 4 inches — stay off

  • 4 inches — minimum for ice fishing on foot 

  • 5 to 7 inches — one snowmobile

  • 8 to 12 inches — one car or small pickup truck

  • 12 to 15 inches — one medium truck

** These are not hard fast rules. Always make your own determinations on ice thickness and safety for yourself in every case. Never go by second-hand reports or guesses. 

Article provided by "Wired to Fish"

Jim Riley

Jim Riley

Licensed & Insured

Kayak Fishing

Various Lakes

20 Years Experience



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