Minimum of 4 inches of clear ice is usually safe for anglers on foot
By the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation encouraged anglers to put safety first when ice fishing.
Four inches of solid ice is usually safe for anglers accessing ice on foot. However, ice thickness can vary on waterbodies and even within the same waterbody. Anglers should be particularly wary of areas of moving water and around boat docks and houses where bubblers may be installed to reduce ice buildup.
The presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be taken as evidence of safe ice conditions. Individuals are strongly encouraged to check ice conditions and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk. Testing the thickness of ice can easily be done with an auger or ice spud at various spots.
"Ice fishing is a popular sport in New York state and, with the post-Christmas drop in temperature, I am sure anglers are looking forward to an early start to the season this year," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "The rush to get out onto the ice can lead to tragedy unless anglers remain vigilant to the condition of the ice. Anglers should heed DEC's recommendation of at least four inches of solid, clear ice before venturing out on the ice."
Ice fishing continues to increase in popularity in New York. Unlike the open water season, when an angler usually needs a boat to access good fishing locations, no boat is required to access these locations once a water is covered with safe ice. It's also a sport for families, as they can mix in skating, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or other activities during an ice fishing trip to keep everyone interested and happy.
As part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's NY "Open for Fishing and Hunting" initiative, Feb. 17-18, 2018, has been designated as a free fishing weekend. The requirement for a fishing license is waived during this period. This is an opportunity to try ice fishing for the first time or for experienced anglers to take friends ice fishing for the first time. Beginning ice anglers are encouraged to download the ice fishing chapter
of DEC's new "I FISH NY Beginners' Guide to Freshwater Fishing
" for information on how to get started ice fishing. Additional information, including a list of waters open to ice fishing, can be found on the DEC ice fishing
webpage and the public lakes and ponds map
Anglers are reminded to take these important steps when using baitfish while ice fishing:
- Follow the bait fish regulations to prevent the spread of harmful fish diseases and invasive species (see: special regulations by county).
- Use only certified disease-free bait fish purchased at a local tackle store, or use only personally collected bait fish for use in the same water body in which they were caught.
- Do not reuse baitfish in another waterbody if you have replaced the water they were purchased in.
- Dump unused baitfish and water in an appropriate location on dry land.
Anglers are reminded to make sure they have a valid fishing license before heading out on the ice. Fishing licenses are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase.