Ice Fish for Free
Saturday, Jan. 13, through Monday, Jan. 15, 2024
Take A Kid Ice Fishing Weekend: Residents fish or spear fish for free when accompanied by a child age 15 or under.
Catch some quality family time and plan a special ice fishing weekend.
- New to ice fishing? Learn how to ice fish and ways to catch different species of fish.
- Find useful information on our fishing page, including resources about fishing basics, where to fish and fishing regulations.
- Consider trout fishing as an option for the weekend when the winter season opens on Saturday. Since you don't need a license when fishing with a kid, you won't need a trout stamp either.
Helpful Links & Fun Stuff For Kids
- There is no such thing as safe ice. Find out why you can never be too careful at the MNDNR Ice Safety Webpage.
- You've never been ice fishing? Don't fret. Sit down with your young anglers and learn together with this guide. (6 pages | 2 MB)
- Here's a helpful video by the MNDNR called Danger, Thin Ice! on how to do an ice self-rescue and how to rescue someone who has fallen through the ice.
- Want a guide to take with you this winter expedition? Print out MinnAqua's Ice Fishing and Winter Safety information. (30 pages | 2.2 MB)
- Need gear? Make your own ice fishing jiggle stick with help from MinnAqua! (20 pages | 2.8 MB)
- Want to sure the kids stay busy on the way there? Give them their own copy of MinnAqua's Ice Fishing Frenzy. (10 pages | 3.2 MB)
The Right Clothing Keeps Anglers Warm and Dry
- Stocking Cap: May be the most important piece of winter clothing. Wear a knitted or fleece hat or cap that covers ears. In addition, a hood helps block the wind.
- Scarf or Neck Gaiter: A scarf, muffler, or neck gaiter can be pulled over the face if it gets windy.
- Mittens: Mittens trap more heat than gloves. Mittens should be thick and warm. Thin gloves worn under mittens are good when mittens need to be taken off for tying knots or taking fish off of hooks. Connecting mittens to jacket cuffs may be a good idea for some.
- Warming Layers: Layers of clothing trap body heat between them. Most long underwear (layer next to the skin) made of polypropylene (or silk) wicks moisture away from the skin. The next layers are for insulation. Ideal insulation layer materials retain some insulating qualities, even when wet (such as a wool sweater or fleece jacket). If it's really cold, wear more than one insulating layer. The top layer blocks the wind and may also be waterproof.
- Socks: Wear thick wool socks. Some people like to wear two pairs of socks. Be sure to avoid cotton socks.
- Boots: Boots should be insulated and rubber-soled. Make sure boots aren't too tight -- toes should have room to wiggle.
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.
- Sunscreen & Sunglasses: Sunburn is caused from sunlight not heat, glare from the ice and snow intensifies the sunlight and the potential for sunburn.
- 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.
Avoid accidents on the ice
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.
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.
Know your area. Carry a phone, compass, map or a GPS unit.