Taking Kids Ice Fishing

Ice Fish for Free

January 14-16, 2017

Take-A-Kid Ice Fishing Weekend: Residents fish or spear fish for free when accompanied by a child age 15 or under.

Take a Kid Ice Fishing Logo

Catch some quality family time and plan a special ice fishing weekend.

Learn about fishing basics, check regulations and find places to fish using LakeFinder at Fish Minnesota. Trout fishing is also an option for the weekend. A trout stamp is only required to fish for trout when an angling license is also required. Because people fishing with a kid don't need a license on Take a Kid Ice Fishing Weekend, the stamp requirement also does not apply.

General Ice Thickness Guidelines

For new, clear ice only

Under 4" - STAY OFF
4" - Ice fishing or other activities on foot
5" - 7" - Snowmobile or ATV
8" - 12" - Car or small pickup
12" - 15" - Medium truck

Note: these guidelines are for new, clear solid ice.

White ice or "snow ice" is only about half as strong as new clear ice. Double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.

Click to enlarge:

Ice thickness Guidelines card

Download a printable PDF of the Ice Thickness Guidelines card »

Be sure to check the ice conditions on your lake before heading out - no two lakes are the same. Safety officials recommend that you wear a life jacket or float coat while on the ice.

Learn about Ice Safety

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Helpful Links & Fun Stuff For Kids

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Video of 2008 Hmong Take-a-kid ice fishing event on Keller lake, St. Paul. Video courtesy of Minnesota Bound. This presentation requires the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.

Kids on St. Paul's Keller Lake
Video courtesy of Minnesota Bound


The Right Clothing Keeps Anglers Warm and Dry

Parent with toddler

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Basic Safety Gear for Your Ice Fishing Trip

  • Hot chocolate & snacks: Keep anglers happy.
  • Band-aids: Patch hook pricks or minor cuts.
  • Hand warmers: Warm hands and feet.
  • Personal flotation device on rope (seat cushion-type): To rescue someone if they fall in the water.
  • Sled with attached rope: Carry gear and/or a person, if necessary.
  • Wool blanket or sleeping bag: Warm anyone who gets wet or cold.
  • Cell phone: Make calls for help.
  • Ice rescue claws: One set per person for self-rescue in case of falling through the ice. You can even make your own.
  • Sunscreen & Sunglasses: Sunburn is caused from sunlight not heat, glare from the ice and snow intensifies the sunlight and the potential for sunburn.
Ice claws

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Fishing Equipment

Tip up

Ice fishing scoop
  • Auger: Without this, you can't drill a hole through the ice. Sharp hand augers work well ... you don't need a power auger unless you're drilling many holes for many anglers.
  • Tip-Ups: Special fishing "poles" for ice fishing. There are several types but basically one stick holds the device above the hole and the second stick has the line and hook/weight or jig attached to it.
  • Drilling a hole in the ice with a hand auger
  • Jiggle Stick: Nothing more than a really short fishing pole used to move (jig) the bait up and down to attract fish. This is a technique usually used for panfish such as crappie and bluegill but can work with other species.
  • Tackle: Don't pull out your summer tackle box. For tip-ups, heavyweight braided line and jigs with different colored heads work well. Leaders are seldom needed, even for northern pike. For jiggle sticks (or those really short fishing poles), use clear ice fishing line of 2 to 4 pound test. Generally speaking, lighter line is better – it'll be easier to recognize when a fish bites.
  • Bait: Live minnows work well for walleye and northern. Use smaller minnows for crappie. Waxworms and nightcrawlers/worms can entice sunfish. Panfish also like spikes and eurolarvae, which look like small colored waxworms.
  • Scoop: A big ladle with holes in it. Use it to scoop a minnow out of the bait bucket and keep your holes clear of ice.
  • Sled: Almost always a necessity for hauling gear to your spot. Use a stable, wide sled with edges to keep things from falling off.
  • Bucket: The five-gallon kind. In fact, bring several. They can be used as seats (with or without special "lids" you can find at many sporting good stores) and are a great place to stow your catch.
  • Shelter: If you've got one, bring it. Kids like to get in out of the cold. If you use any sort of heater inside the shelter, know what you're doing and be careful of carbon monoxide.

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Keeping Kids Warm & Alert

  • Bring a hand auger and have kids try to make a hole.
  • Bring a Frisbee or play freeze tag if there is snow on the ice.
  • Drink warm sweet liquids, avoid alcohol.
  • Bring a variety of bait to try out.
  • Bring an underwater camera with a viewing cable that can be fed through your ice fishing hole.

Avoid accidents on the ice


Preventive Measures

Slipping on the ice

Wear boots with rubber soles. Don't run on the ice.

Stepping in a hole

Set boundaries. Watch where you step. Look for holes in the ice. Use an auger with a diameter of less than 6 inches.


Wear sunscreen.


Cover your face. Wear layers to block wind.


Remain alert. Are you getting too cold? Wiggle fingers and toes. Tell someone that you are getting cold.

Getting lost

Know your area. Carry a phone, compass, map or a GPS unit.

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