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Ice Thickness Guidelines and Safety Tips From The MN DNR


Every year we hear about people falling through the ice on the lakes.  Especially now with the warmer early winter weeks, it’s important for people to understand when and how to venture out on the ice.   According to the MN DNR, ice is never 100% safe!

However, if you’re like me and love to ice fish, you can reduce your risk of going through by following these general thickness guidelines:

  • 2 inches or less – STAY OFF THE ICE!
  • 4 inches – ice fish on foot, no vehicles
  • 5 inches – snowmobile or atv
  • 8-12 inches – car or small pickup
  • 12-15 inches – medium pickup

So how do you know how thick the ice is?  Best bet is to call bait shops near the lake you are going fishing.  They are the most up to date on reports.

Another few things that are good to know that even surprised me:

  • Always park vehicles at least 50 feet apart, and move them every 2 hours to prevent them from sinking.
  • New ice is safer than old ice!  (As long as it’s thick enough)
  • The DNR suggests you don’t drive your vehicle on the ice unless you have to, and if you do, keep your windows rolled down.  So when you’re buddy gives you crap for having your windows rolled down, don’t feel bad.
  • Schools of fish and water fowl can drastically change the thickness of ice.  Schools of fish may bring warm water from the bottom of the lake up, causing the ice to be thinner!

The MN DNR has a great website outlining all aspects of safe ice fishing.  I strongly suggest if you are going to go ice fishing, snowmobiling on the lakes, or any other activity involving a lake this winter to check out the website and prepare yourself safely.

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