DNR offers tips for safe, successful ice fishing season

Published 1:29 pm Friday, December 18, 2020

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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.”

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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.
  • Do not go onto private property unless you have permission to be there. If you are traveling to Upper Red Lake, know the Red Lake Indian Reservation is closed to people who aren’t members of the band. Stay east of the longitudinal coordinate of 94 deg. 43’ 12.0” to ensure you are on state waters.
  • Maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet from members of other households at public access sites and on the ice. If the access is full, try another lake or try again at a less-busy time.
  • Minimize noise, and remember to keep a respectful distance from other anglers.