A very popular winter past time in the upper Midwest is Ice Fishing. There are many ways of enjoying fishing on a frozen lake in the winter. You can walk out on the lake, drill a hole in the ice and start fishing with nothing but the blue sky above you. You can fish in a portable ice house that protects you from inclement weather. Or, once the ice is thick enough, you can put a more substantial ice house out on the lake at the beginning of the season and leave it there until the required removal date at the end of fishing season. Ice house removal dates vary from year to year so check with your state’s DNR for the specific ice house removal deadline.
Before venturing out on frozen ponds, lakes or rivers CHECK the THICKNESS and CONDITION of the ICE! Be aware that snow covered bodies of water may not be safe. Snow acts as a “blanket” preventing water from freezing completely. The snow may also be hiding cracks or open water.
When going out on the ice keep some sort of sharp object close at hand that you can use as a spike to jab into the ice and help pull yourself out of the water if you fall in. It could be as simple as a screw driver, ice chisel or hand spikes purchased from the store. It is also a good idea to wear a life vest, which may help keep you buoyant if you do fall into the water. However, DO NOT WEAR the life vest in an enclosed vehicle.
Minimum Clear Ice Thickness for these scenarios:
Walking 4 Inches
Snowmobile or ATV 5.5 – 6 Inches
Automobile 8-12 Inches
Pickup/Truck 12-15 Inches
Transporting Ice Houses
In Minnesota wheeled fish houses have to be licensed as highway vehicles, registered with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and follow all rules of the road during transport of the house on public roads. They require proper lights and trailer lights. The width of the wheeled fish house may not exceed 102 inches or 8.5 feet. If your trailer weighs more than 3,000 pounds it is also required to have brakes.
Fish House Safety
At the beginning and during the fishing season you should check your fish house for safety hazards. Most fish houses are heated with propane fueled heat sources. Check your propane tank for leaks at the connections to any gas lights, stoves or heaters you may have it connected to. Check the hose lines for leaks as well. Keep your propane tank outside the fish house.
Check to make sure you have adequate ventilation inside the fish house for the type of heater you are using to heat your fish house. Vents may need to be checked for birds nest or other debris after being stored for the off season. If the vent is on the roof, make sure you keep it clear of snow!
Equip your ice house with a Carbon Monoxide Detector, as well as a Smoke Detector and a Fire Extinguisher!
Always check with your insurance agent on coverage for your ice house and your fishing gear.
Be Safe and Good Luck Fishing!