ice fishing license
Your complete winter guide to ice fishing, obtaining an ice fishing license, ice fishing gear and safety

As winter nears in the Northern Hemisphere, ice fishermen rejoice! If you are a traditional saltwater or freshwater fisherman, this upcoming winter could be the perfect winter season to try ice fishing for the first time. For both the experienced ice fisherman or novice to the sport of ice fishing, an ice fishing license is required. Read on below to learn more about the basics of ice fishing and obtaining your ice fishing license.

Is an ice fishing license required?

Yes, an ice fishing license is required. It’s not as complicated as one might think. It is common to assume that a separate ice fishing license is required for ice fishing. However, this is not true. Any standard state fishing license normally purchased for traditional saltwater and freshwater fishing will also allow you to experience ice fishing. Therefore, ice fishing license requirements are no different than a normal fishing license.

How much is an ice fishing license?

Ice fishing license cost is the same as a standard fishing license. Price for an ice fishing license will vary based on a few factors:

Please refer to our comprehensive State Fishing License Guide for fishing and ice fishing license cost by state, term length, and residency status.

Tip: Some of the most popular ice fishing states allow free fishing dates during ice fishing season. This will allow new ice fishermen to experience ice fishing for the first time without having to invest in the upfront cost of an ice fishing license.

Maine: February 15-16

North Dakota: December 28-29

Wisconsin: January 18-19

Be sure to check state guides for current information on free fishing days before you go. Otherwise, take a Walmart ice fishing license 🙂

Walmart Ice Fishing License: Can an ice fishing license be obtained at Walmart?

Yes – you can purchase an ice fishing license at Walmart. Simply tell a store employee the state you are seeking a regular fishing license for. Walmart ice fishing license cost is typically the same as the state fishing license prices. Click here to find the nearest Walmart store near you.

You might be looking for other options for where to buy ice fishing license. If so, check with your State Fishing or Game department. There are no special ice fishing license requirements needed in order to purchase.

When is ice fishing season?

In this section, we discuss general ice fishing information. Firstly, ice fishing season normally kicks off during winter months. Secondly, there is no official start and end date to ice fishing season. In summary, it all depends on the region of the world you are in and when the temperatures become cold enough for the ice thickness to maintain a safe level. Below are the recommended ice thickness levels to help ensure a safe ice fishing experience:

2” or less – AVOID! Not a safe ice thickness.

4” – Ice fishing on foot only or other activities by foot such as ice skating

5” – Snowmobile

8” – 12” – Car or small pick up

12” – 15” – Medium truck

Note the above ice thickness recommendations are guidelines. Please practice ice fishing at your own risk.

Ice fishing types of fish

In this paragraph, we will cover the type of fish you can catch while ice fishing. It’s important to note that ice fishing type will vary by region. Some of the most common cold-water fish are listed below:

  • Bluegill
  • Sunfish
  • Perch
  • Crappie
  • Northern pike
  • Walleye
  • Trout
  • Muskellunge
  • Lake Sturgeon
ice fishing license
One of the many types of fish caught during ice fishing.

Ice Fishing Equipment

In this final section, find information on the ice fishing equipment you need. Many of the most common fishing equipment, gear and bait used during traditional warm water fishing can also be used during ice fishing. Below, we will cover some of the unique equipment needed for a pleasurable ice fishing experience.

Ice rod and reels: Ice rods are larger than your traditional fishing rods. They normally range between 24 and 36 inches. Ice rods are designed with extra length to allow you to comfortably and safely hold your reel above the six to eight-inch hole in the ice. Our recommended St Croix ice fishing rod.

Ice fishing line: While we go bigger with our ice rod size, we go the opposite way for ice fishing line. Bring your ice fishing line down from 6- or 8-pound test to 4, 3 or even 2-pound test. The reason for smaller ice fishing line is that fish below the ice are normally sluggish due to the cold-water temperatures. Cold and sluggish fish will put up less of a fight! Our recommended ice fishing line.

Ice Auger: An ice auger is a spiral cutting tool used to make holes in the ice. If you are ice fishing on your own, you will likely have to cut your own hole in the ice. These tools will make this possible. With this tool, you will cut your own ice holes ranging from 4 inches in diameter to 8 inches or more in diameter. The larger the hole, the larger size fish you will be able to catch while ice fishing. Recommended ice auger.

Ice seat: Keep yourself comfortable and supported. Ice fishing oftentimes involves long stretches of waiting in cold weather. Our recommended ice fishing seat.

A final note on ice fishing

Any avid angler is always disappointed when Autumn comes to a close, but this doesn’t mean you have to hang up your rod for the season! Ice fishing is a great activity to allow you to experience fishing year-round if you live in a colder climate. You can also catch different types of fish during ice fishing than you would during traditional fishing. Most importantly, you can continue to enjoy the great outdoors year-round! Just make sure to pack the proper ice fishing gear, check your ice thickness, and bring your ice fishing license!

Have a great winter 🙂

-Your Ice Fishing License Team

ice fishing license
My last ice fishing trip!

Ice Fishing License FAQ

  1. Is an ice fishing license required? Yes. You can use a standard fresh or saltwater fishing license.
  2. Where can I get an ice fishing license? Walmart ice fishing licenses are the easiest to obtain
  3. What ice thickness is required for ice fishing? At least 4 inches if by foot.


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