Keep ice safety a top priority this winter

Free Fishing Weekend Jan. 15-16

Madison, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds the public to make ice safety a priority when heading out for Free Fishing Weekend Jan. 15-16.

During Free Fishing Weekend, no fishing license or trout and salmon stamps are required. Anglers can fish state waters where there is an open season. All other fishing regulations apply, such as limits on the number and size of fish you can keep and any seasons when you must release certain fish species.

Know Before You Go

No ice is 100% safe. The DNR does not monitor local ice conditions or the thickness of the ice and urges anglers to practice safety during winter fishing activities while on the ice. Ice strength cannot be determined by appearance, age, thickness or temperature, especially when the ice is snow-covered.

Plan Ahead For A Safe Winter Fishing Adventure

Follow these safety tips when ice fishing:

  • Dress in warm, water-resistant layers and pack an extra hat and gloves.
  • Contact local bait shops, fishing clubs or resorts to ask about local ice conditions.
  • Stay safely on shore if ice conditions are questionable and if open water is within casting distance.
  • Use sturdy waterproof boots with spike-style creepers for traction.
  • Carry some basic safety gear: ice claws or picks, a cellphone in a waterproof bag or case and rope.
  • Wear a life jacket or a float coat to help stay afloat and slow body heat loss.
  • Make sure someone knows where you are and when you are expected to return.
  • Don’t travel in areas you are not familiar with and don’t travel at night or during reduced visibility.
  • Avoid inlets, outlets or narrows with currents that can thin the ice.
  • Look for clear ice, which is generally stronger than ice with snow on it or bubbles in it.
  • Watch out for pressure ridges or ice heaves. These can be dangerous due to thin ice and open water.

Check out the DNR’s Ice Safety webpage for more information on staying safe on the ice, including tips for creating ice claws and what to do if you fall through ice.

If you’re new to ice fishing, check out the “Ice Fishing Essentials” story in the latest issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine for tips on what you’ll need to get started.

Visit the DNR’s Fishing Equipment For Loan webpage to find a tackle loaner site with ice fishing equipment near you or where you plan to fish.

Free Fishing Weekend Regulations & Guidelines

Anglers cannot fish spring trout ponds during the Winter Free Fishing Weekend. Please review the trout regulations and 2021-2022 Hook and Line regulations for more information.

If you plan to keep your catch, please review the DNR’s Safe Eating Guidelines for information on  consumption advisories impacting some waterbodies throughout the state.

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