Ice fishing is one of my favorite winter activities, but it’s something I haven’t done for the past couple of winters.

My type of ice fishing is quite primitive, compared to the way some people do it. My husband owns a portable shelter, but if it’s warm out, we don’t even use it. We usually just walk onto the ice and fish out in the open.

The fishing rod I use for ice fishing is also the old fashioned stick type. It has a couple of small pegs on it to wrap the line around and a sharp point at the opposite end of the handle, to jab into the ice when I’m not hanging onto it.

One thing I’ve noticed about ice fishing is that it’s pretty maintenance free. I’ve never had my line tangled while out ice fishing. That differs from summer fishing, when I’ve gotten hooked on logs, rocks, weeds and other things.

There’s also no trolling motor to worry about while out ice fishing. And casting isn’t an issue — all you have to do is lower your line into the hole and wait for a fish to bite.

Safety is my first concern when deciding whether to go ice fishing. I prefer to go on lakes where there’s a defined path on the ice that others have already taken.

Even when you’re following all of the safety measures, things can happen out on the ice.

There was one occasion where one of our kids ended up with a wet boot, when they stepped into an ice hole left by another angler. The snow-covered, slush-filled hole was just a few steps away from where we were fishing. Thankfully, I was able to pull the kid’s foot out of the hole almost as fast as he stepped into it.

Even when there are existing tracks and other people fishing, there’s no guarantee that a person won’t encounter a spring or a patch of thin ice.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently included the following ice safety tips in a press release,

“No ice can ever be considered “safe ice,” but following these guidelines can minimize your risk while on the ice:”

Ice safety guidelines

Always wear a life jacket on the ice (except when in a vehicle).

Children need to be supervised when they are near the ice.

Warn children to stay off ponds, streams, and other bodies of water.

A thin coating of ice on a pond or lake does not mean it is safe.

Check ice thickness at regular intervals – conditions can change quickly.

Before heading out, inquire about conditions and known hazards with local experts.

Avoid channels and rivers.

The minimum ice thickness guidelines for new, clear ice are:

4 inches for ice fishing or other activities on foot.

5-7 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle.

8-12 inches for a car or small pickup.

12-15 inches for a medium truck.

Double these minimums for white ice or ice covered with heavy snow.

For more information, visit mndnr.gov/icesafety and mndnr.gov/boatingsafety.

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