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Tips to stay safe and dry while ice fishing

Posted at 11:01 AM, Feb 02, 2024

BOZEMAN — Winter has finally made an appearance in Montana, and that means ponds and lakes are covered in ice. That also means many of us are planning an ice fishing outing. This week, reporter Chet Layman talked with Montana FWP’s Morgan Jacobsen about staying dry and safe while on the ice.

Here are some tips:

  • Check the weather
  • Tell someone where you're going.
  • Bring a friend - for company and safety.
  • Look for signs that others have been out on the ice first. Never be first on the ice!
  • Check ice thickness and clarity - there should be at least 4-6 inches of clear ice
  • If there's snow on the ice, use caution. It can hide the ice condition.
  • Don't approach open water.
  • Stay clear of pressure ridges and/or large cracks.
  • Be extra cautious around areas that can make ice weaker such as docks and other structures. inlets and outlets, and springs.
  • Spread out if you have a big group.

You can't determine how thick the ice is by looking. Drill a test hole and measure it to make sure it's safe. Recommended minimum ice thickness guidelines for good, clear ice:

  • Under 4 inches: STAY OFF
  • 4 inches: Ice fishing or other activities on foot
  • 7 inches: Snowmobile or ATV
  • 10 inches: Small car (not recommended, but if you must, proceed at your own risk)
  • 12 inches: Larger vehicle (not recommended, but if you must, proceed at your own risk)