Each winter, avid anglers in the upper Midwest and North are excited to begin the ice fishing season. Of course, safety must be a top priority when walking on a frozen lake, especially early in the season.
In the 5-minute YouTube video below, veteran angler Jason Mitchell answers the question: How thick of ice do you need to walk out and ice fish safely?
Mitchell provides several important early ice safety tips and precautions. He also covers how to use a spud bar for checking ice quality and thickness, and goes over a checklist of must-have gear every ice angler should have when walking out on early ice.
I couldn’t agree more with Mitchell’s advice and gear recommendations. I’ve been ice fishing for 45 years, and each winter I’m faced with the same question: Is it too early to venture out onto a specific lake? The ONLY way to know for sure is to check the ice yourself. And Mitchell is right: Just because the ice measures 3 inches in one area, it doesn’t mean it will be 3 inches over the entire lake. As he explains, several factors, including current, geese, muskrats and more can affect ice thickness.
Personally, I prefer 4 inches of clear, hard ice before walking on a lake. And as Mitchell recommends, I wear a float parka and bib, wear ice cleats on my boots to prevent slipping, carry a throw rope and ice picks, and check ice thickness often with a spud bar.
Several companies offer top-notch gear for safe ice fishing; Mitchell relies on products from Clam Outdoors. I’ve used Clam gear, too, and can recommend the brand highly. But Clam doesn’t offer everything you need, so you’ll see a couple of other companies represented in my ice safety gear list below:
My favorite part of the video is Mitchell’s final words of advice, “Don’t push the limits.”
Be smart. Be safe.