The 7 Unspoken Rules Of Ice Fishing Etiquette

In the sport of ice fishing, there is an unspoken book of rules that every ice angler should know. Most of them are common sense…but for new anglers, it’s important to learn the expectations and demeanor when sharing the ice.

In this article, I am going to list and explain the basic rules of ice fishing etiquette.

Don’t fish out of other people’s holes 

This rule is common sense but people break it all the time. There is nothing that pisses an ice fisherman off more than other people fishing out of holes that they have drilled without permission.

I have had instances of whilst making a line of holes to check depths and contours, people coming and setting up in one of them.

Spaced out Ice Fisherman

It is simply rude, and inconsiderate and will almost always lead to an argument on the ice which should be avoided whenever possible. 

Don’t drill holes by other peoples tip ups

Being successful while using tip-ups stems from being quiet and keeping your distance from your tip-ups so you don’t spook the fish. 

When drilling any hole it’s noisy and it’s why avid Ice anglers get set up early so that they can limit the amount of noise and spook fewer fish. 

Drilling holes near other people’s gear and tip-ups is simply a jerk move. Doing this ruins the other person’s day because the strategy to keep the noise down has been wrecked…and you’re encroaching on their area.

Keep a respectful distance from other peoples holes

My general rule for any lake is 50 yards from another group. In smaller lakes this might be more challenging but be respectful of others and keep your distance.

Know that if another angler is in your spot, they deserve the spot over you because they were their first. Don’t try to spot-burn them or annoy them enough so they leave. 

Overall try and stay as far away from each other as possible. If this rule is tough for you to follow just get to your spot earlier so you can fish where you want to fish.

And when all else fails, have a conversation! Introduce yourself, and ask if it’s okay to fish nearby. Offer some bait, and be friendly!

Pick up your trash before you leave

This rule should be common sense but often so much trash gets left on the lake, especially during overnight trips.

You don’t want to ruin the pristine lake and fishing experience for others and it always bothers people to see trash left on the ice. 

The 7 Unspoken Rules Of Ice Fishing Etiquette

Part of the fishing experience is also protecting the environment so pick up your trash!

Mark your larger Holes

Marking your site fishing holes is more of a safety-related matter but anglers get upset when people don’t mark their larger holes and they have to pick up your slack.

If you fail to mark your bigger holes you can risk having someone’s vehicle go through the ice, get stuck or even have a person or animal fall through.

So take your part to make ice fishing a bit safer and mark your site fishing holes!

Don’t Assume You Can Borrow Gear

Depending on most situations asking another angler for something is usually okay but should be avoided when possible.

If a random person who is just out enjoying their day is asked to drill a hole for another person, it is both a hassle and a big annoyance to them.

The only scenario that is okay for asking for things is if you have a previous encounter with the angler or know them personally…introduce yourself, offer them a frosty beverage.

Usually, if a kind angler sees you struggling they will more often help, but let them offer their assistance.

Be quiet, others are trying to enjoy their time too

Ice fishing is a leisure activity, it’s meant to be relaxing and fun. 

The main point of ice fishing for me is having a peaceful experience that is not filled with stress from the outside world. 

Anglers don’t want to listen to your obnoxiously loud music or hear you scream about landing your fish. Is it okay to get excited? Sure! But be respectful of others nearby.

I am not saying don’t celebrate but celebrate calmly and also use your vehicles for what they are designed for. 

Don’t drill holes on roads

Make sure you are at least 20 ft from the road before drilling holes, this allows roads to stay in top condition.

Drilling holes on roads may be convenient to you but ultimately leads to inconveniencing others that have to navigate around your holes and risk getting their vehicles stuck.

It is also a safety concern because an ATV wheel or snowmobile can absolutely go through a hole and result in a crash and damage or loss of gear. 

Final Thoughts

Ice fishing etiquette comes down to common sense: Be respectful, keep your distance, clean up after yourself, and prioritize safety with your holes and equipment.

Does that mean that Ice fishing is an anti-social activity? No, of course not!

Make friends, introduce yourself, network with anglers, and fishing clubs and bring the kids.

Just be courteous of others on the lake, and respectful of the environment so others can enjoy it too.

Thanks for reading.

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