Anglers Encouraged to Keep Safety in Mind When Ice Fishing

Ice FishingImage via Pixabay

HARRISBURG, PA — With cold, winter weather persisting across the Commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is reminding anglers to keep safety in mind while enjoying ice fishing.

While anglers in many northern counties have already experienced several weeks of consistent, cold weather conditions resulting in thick ice on the surface of lakes and ponds, sustained freezing temperatures in more central and southern portions of the Commonwealth are also creating ice fishing opportunities.

“When conditions are right, ice fishing can be a great way to shake off the cabin fever that many anglers are experiencing right now,” said Ryan Walt, the PFBC’s Water and Ice Rescue Program Manager.  “Anglers should understand the risks associated with this activity and be well prepared before heading out.  Even experienced ice anglers can slip or fall through the ice accidentally, and with many new anglers taking to the water recently, we want to reinforce the importance of safety before and during every ice fishing adventure.”

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While ice fishing can be a fun and rewarding activity for people of all ages, every venture out onto the ice should begin by following several safety steps:

  • Always wear a lifejacket or float coat while on the ice.  Avoid inflatable lifejackets, which do not perform well in freezing temperatures.
  • When arriving at the water’s edge, visually survey the ice.  Look for open water areas and signs of recent changes in water levels.  Ice sloping down from the bank can indicate a recent drop in water level, while wet areas on the ice can indicate a rise in water level.
  • Listen for loud cracks or booms coming from the ice.  This can be an indicator of deteriorating ice.
  • Look for new ice, which is clear or has a blue tint.  New ice is stronger than old ice, which can appear white or gray.
  • Remember that ice thickness is not consistent across the surface of the lake or pond.
  • Beware of ice around partially submerged objects such as trees, brush, embankments, or structures.  Ice will not form as quickly where water is shallow or where objects may absorb heat from sunlight.
  • Anglers should use an ice staff to probe ahead as they walk.  If the ice staff punches through, retreat to shore slowly.
  • Always carry a pair of ice awls, which are handheld spikes.  Ice awls can assist in performing a self-rescue, in which the spikes are driven into the ice to help someone pull themselves out of the water.
  • Never walk on ice that has formed over moving water such as a river or stream.
  • Never go out on ice alone.
  • Always let someone know your plans and when you expect to return.
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Those who are new to ice fishing can get started by visiting the PFBC’s Ice/Winter Fishing webpage.  A list of PA’s Best Fishing Waters and maps of submerged habitat structures is also available.

Anglers interested in ice fishing at a Pennsylvania State Park can search for information on current snow and ice conditions by reviewing the State Parks Winter Report on the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website.

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