News release: Minnesotans fish free with kids Jan. 13-15

January 11, 2024

Safety is the first priority for anglers; ice remains unsafe in much of the state

With Take a Kid Ice Fishing Weekend coming up Saturday, Jan. 13, through Monday, Jan. 15, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is advising anglers to put safety first when making plans.

“Ice is unsafe in much of the state, including in the metro area where there is still open water on some lakes,” said Benji Kohn, DNR volunteer mentor program coordinator. “Other areas, especially in northern Minnesota, have more ice and some ice fishing opportunities there.”

During the three-day weekend Jan. 13-15, any Minnesota resident can go fishing for free if fishing with a child 15 years old or younger. Minnesotans 15 years old or younger don’t need fishing licenses any time of the year.

Additionally, the fishing season for stream trout in lakes outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness begins Jan. 13. This opener typically features anglers flocking to some metro areas lakes; however, these lakes do not have safe ice, with some still showing open water.

Opportunities for fun off the ice

Ice fishing isn’t the only way to enjoy the weekend. In addition to fishing, the Minnesota DNR is waiving vehicle permit fees at all 75 state parks and recreation areas on Jan. 15 during Free Park Day. With this year’s unusual weather, the DNR wants people to know there are many winter park activities that don’t require snow or ice, such as birding, winter hiking, nature photography, and having a campfire with hot chocolate and s’mores.

Ice safety guidelines

Ice is variable and people should be very cautious, including in northern Minnesota. Don’t rely on reports alone – always check the ice.

If people are going out on the ice, check the ice and not just for thickness. White and rotten ice can be deceiving. If the ice is white, double the ice thickness guidelines. In most places, people should wait before taking out ATVs or other vehicles out on the ice. The ice is just not ready yet.

No ice can ever be considered “safe ice,” but following these guidelines can help minimize the risk:

  • Always wear a life jacket or float coat on the ice (except when in a vehicle).
  • Carry ice picks, rope, an ice chisel and tape measure.
  • Check ice thickness at regular intervals; conditions can change quickly.
  • Bring a cell phone or personal locator beacon.
  • Don’t go out alone; let someone know about trip plans and expected return time.
  • Before heading out, inquire about conditions and known hazards with local experts.
  • Parents and guardians should talk with their children about staying away from the ice unless there’s adult supervision. This includes lakes and rivers, as well as neighborhood ponds, retention ponds and anywhere ice forms.

Fishing information, including regulations, fishing basics and the popular DNR LakeFinder, is available on the Minnesota DNR fishing page.

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