Ice fishing in Iowa? DNR stresses safety on frozen waterways


Ice fishing as seen from Drone13.

DES MOINES, Iowa – As winter temperatures settle in over the state the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is making sure Iowans know how to stay safe on frozen waterways.

Whether you are ice fishing, snowmobiling, or playing some pond hockey the key to keeping protected is making sure to pay attention to the ice conditions.

“Check ice thickness as you make your way to your favorite fishing spot,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of fisheries for the Iowa DNR. “Ice conditions change constantly and its thickness can vary across the lake. Trust your instincts – if the ice does not look right, don’t go out.”

(Courtesy: Iowa Department of Natural Resources)

At least four inches of clear ice is recommended by the DNR for fishing and if you’re going to be using a snowmobile or ATV you’ll need five inches of ice.

Ice that has a blanket of snow on it can be deceiving as it can hide weak spots in the ice and the insulation the snow provides also slows the growth of ice.

The Iowa DNR also provides the following tips on ice safety:

  • New ice is usually stronger than old ice. 
  • Don’t go out alone – if the worst should happen, someone will be there to call for help or to help rescue.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you will return.
  • Check ice thickness as you go out – there could be pockets of thin ice or places where ice recently formed.
  • Avoid off-colored snow or ice. It is usually a sign of weakness.
  • The insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process.
  • Bring along these basic items to help keep you safe: hand warmers, ice cleats to help prevent falls, ice picks (wear around your neck) to help you crawl out of the water if you fall in, a life jacket, a floating safety rope, a whistle to call for help, a basic first aid kit and extra dry clothes including a pair of gloves.

You can find more information on ice fishing safety and regulations in Iowa here.

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