A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

4 ice fishing health and safety tips that could save your life

Is five inches of ice safe for a vehicle while ice fishing?

Which may help prevent hypothermia, low carb or high carb snacks?

Answers to these questions can help make your next ice-fishing excursion memorable – in a good way.

“Ice fishing safety is not something to take lightly,” said Andrea Heller, a Marshfield Clinic Health System family medicine nurse practitioner. “Taking the right precautions could save your life in unexpected conditions.”

Heller walks through ice fishing guidelines for clothing, gear, ice thickness and food.

Family ice fishing - Ice fishing safety

With the proper clothing, gear, ice and food, ice fishing can be a safe and fun winter activity for the entire family.

Wear proper clothes

Dress in layers, suggests Heller.


  • Wicking inner layer
  • Fleece or wool insulating layer
  • Down or nylon wind-breaking layer
  • Hat
  • Mittens
  • Eye and face protection
  • Water-resistant boots

Pack ice safety gear

“Some stores sell ice fishing safety kits,” Heller said. “They usually include over-boot cleats, ice picks and maybe a whistle.”

You can create your own ice safety gearbox by adding a basic first aid kit and an ice chisel to determine ice thickness.

“Check ice thickness every 150 feet. One section that can support a person doesn’t guarantee the whole body of water can.”

The Minnesota DNR provides general ice thickness guidelines:

  • 2” or less – STAY OFF
  • 4” – ice fishing or other activities on foot
  • 5” – snowmobile or ATV
  • 8-12” – car or small pickup
  • 12-15” – medium truck

This guide also states, “White ice or ‘snow ice’ is only about half as strong as new clear ice. Double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.”

Eat healthy food and stay hydrated

Low calorie intake increases risk of hypothermia and frostbite.

Eat healthy foods with good caloric intake, Heller said. Consider these snack options from Shine365 Couch to Deer Camp: Healthy snacks for hunting:

  • Trail mixes with dried fruits, nuts and dark chocolate
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Steel cut oatmeal with almonds, walnuts or berries – pack in an insulated food jar
  • Skim or low-fat milk, or water
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese sticks with low-sodium whole grain crackers

“Avoid alcohol so you are at your safest,” Heller added.

Related Shine365 Stories

Prevent hypothermia, heart attacks in cold weather

Winter walking safety: Walk like a penguin

Fishing safety: Don’t get caught unprepared

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