12 Pieces of Essential Ice Fishing Safety Gear

By Debbie Hanson

Jan 04, 2015

Winter has officially arrived and hard water anglers across the Northern states are bringing the ice augers out of storage.

Winter has officially arrived and hard water anglers across the Northern states are bringing the ice augers out of storage. If you have plans to bundle up and join them for ice fishing season, now is the perfect time to run through this checklist of essential ice fishing safety gear.

  1. Life jacket. You wouldn't want to leave the dock without a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD) in the summer months, and winter should be no different. Always bring a life jacket or personal flotation device with you when ice fishing.
  2. Contour map. Know the area where you plan to go ice fishing. A contour map will give you a point of reference if you need one. Check with your state agency to see if they can provide you with a contour map of the lake or waterway you plan to fish.
  3. Ice cleats or creepers. Ice cleats or creepers attach to boots and consist of adjustable straps or rubber overshoes with metal teeth or spikes that provide additional traction on slippery ice and help to prevent falls.
  4. Ice chisel. An ice chisel is a long-handled blade that comes to a point on one side. You can use an ice chisel to punch a hole through the ice before you take a step to check the thickness.
  5. Ice safety picks. Always bring two ice picks and wear them around your neck so that they are within quick reach. The ice picks can be stuck into the ice and then used to pull yourself back out if you happen to fall through.
  6. Floating rescue rope. Make sure you have a floating rescue rope with you and keep the rope in an easily accessible location. If someone falls through, you may be able to assist by throwing the rope from a safe distance. If you should fall through, throw one end of the floating rope to a rescuer.
  7. Ice fishing suit. Many ice anglers wear ice fishing suits or flotation suits. Ice fishing suits will not only help to keep you warm, but will also make it easier for you to climb out if you go through the ice.
  8. Hat. A significant amount of body heat can be lost through the head when spending cold days outdoors on the ice, which is why it's important to wear a thick hat that covers your ears.
  9. Mittens. Mittens will keep your hands warmer than gloves because they trap more body heat. Wear base layer gloves underneath your mittens, so that when you need to tie lines or take a fish off of a hook, you can just take your mittens off and still have your fingers free.
  10. Hand warmers. Hand warmers are a good way to help keep your hands warm during ice fishing season. Buy a pair of hand warmers to put into the pockets of your jacket or inside of your gloves.
  11. Sunglasses. The reflection of the sun's rays off of the snow and ice can be very hard on the eyes. Make sure you have a good pair of sunglasses that block at least 99% of UVB rays and a minimum of 95% of UVA rays.
  12. Cell phone or radio. You will need to have a cell phone or radio in order to make calls for help in the event of an emergency. If you plan to fish in a remote area, make sure you have a radio in case your cell phone won't work. Pack cell phones and radios in sealed, moisture-proof bags.


Now that you have a list of the essential ice fishing safety gear you'll want to have with you, be sure to visit the ice fishing safety page to watch a quick video on ice fishing safety basics before you take to the hard water.

Photo credits: Daniel Kenney and Christopher Racana

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.