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Ice Fishing

Information iconA winter sunset at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota. (Photo: Courtesy of Caleb Svendsgard)

Ice fishing is many things to many people.

To visitors at dozens of national wildlife refuges and wetland management districts across the country, ice fishing is invigorating winter fun and a chance to bring home a healthy – and tasty – catch.

To Sabrina Chandler, project leader at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota, ice fishing is a social activity in a season when people can feel cooped up at home. “It’s kind of a party,” she says. “More important than catching fish, it’s spending time outdoors.”

To Tom Wickstrom, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist at South Dakota’s Waubay National Wildlife Refuge, “ice fishing is easier than other fishing because you can just walk out onto the lake, drill a hole and go fishing.”

To the folks at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, ice fishing is the Coolest Sport Around: “It’s a chance to breathe the cold clean winter air, to spend quiet time outdoors with family and friends, and to relax and collect one’s thoughts away from the hustle and bustle of a busy world.”

Information iconBluegills and crappies are among fish that can be caught at South Dakota’s Waubay National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo: USFWS)

Before you go ice fishing at a national wildlife refuge or elsewhere, be sure to dress for the cold and check that the ice is thick enough to support your weight. In its general ice thickness guidelines, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources suggests contacting a local bait shop or lakeside resort to ask about ice conditions and then checking it at least every 150 feet as you walk on the ice.

Here is a sampling of national wildlife refuges and wetland management districts where ice fishing can be great. Check conditions with the individual refuge or district before heading out.

Alaska

Idaho

Illinois

Iowa

Kansas

Michigan

Minnesota

Montana

Nebraska

New York

North Dakota

South Dakota

Wisconsin

Information iconUpper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in Illinois. (Photo: Stan Bousson)