It is officially winter in New York, and the temperatures are beginning to reflect that, which means anglers are preparing their first few trips to the ice for the ice fishing season.

For this year, more new and experienced anglers are encouraged to try their hand at ice fishing, but you want to make sure you are prepared and recognize when the ice is safe.

If you know the proper steps to prepare for your ice fishing debut and you know the signs to look for safe ice, you will have an absolute blast this season when you go ice fishing.

Some people may think that the cold makes fish slow down or go into hiding in the water, but that is far from the truth. Many of the fish species stay extremely active during the winter season, including:

  • Perch
  • Lake trout
  • Northern pike
  • Sunfish

— leaving a species for every kind of angler who comes out to the ice!

But please, make sure the ice is thick enough before you trust it to hold you up with all of your ice fishing tools.

According to officials, four inches of solid clear ice is usually safe for anglers who feel the ice out on foot, but be aware that the thickness of the ice can change on water bodies and even on the same waterbody (i.e. it could be slanted).

If you are ice fishing, make sure you are cautious of moving water and around boat docks and houses where bubblers may be installed. 

You can test the thickness of the ice by using an auger or spud bar in the desired locations.

Avoid ice fishing alone, if you can help it. Grab a friend or a family member to keep you company for increased safety, especially if you are new to ice fishing.

If you want to try ice fishing but you don’t have a fishing license, you can try it for the first time in a free fishing event across the state. This winter the Department of Environmental Conservation will host the free fishing weekend event on February 19 and February 20, 2022, and yes, you will be allowed to fish without a license.

With the exception of free fishing days, anglers are required to have valid fishing licenses before going out to the ice. A fishing license is valid for one year from the date of purchase.

Good luck ice fishing!

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