Skip to main content

Ice Safety Tips This Winter Season



December 18, 2018

MONTPELIER, Vt. – The recent arrival of cold temperature has formed early-season ice on Vermont ponds, lakes and rivers.  The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, in partnership with the National Weather Service, reminds winter enthusiasts that ice should never be considered safe and ice conditions vary, especially with changing weather.

“We are urging all outdoor enthusiasts – people going ice fishing, cross-country skiers, hikers, and snowmobilers -- to be extremely cautious and prepared if they are going to venture out on any ice,” said Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s Chief Game Warden Colonel Jason Batchelder.  “Ice conditions can vary dramatically on different parts of a lake.  Remember, even though it may look thick enough on the surface, moving water from currents, rivers and springs can cause ice to form unevenly.”

Vermont’s winters can be extreme and changeable. Always check the latest forecasts before you start your winter adventure.  Prepare for extreme winter conditions like blizzard conditions due to strong winds and blowing snow as well as “dangerous wind chills that can cause frostbite in just minutes, if unprepared,” says NWS Burlington’s Warning Coordination Meteorologist – Scott Whittier.

“Once we have sustained cold weather to form good ice, activities such as ice fishing can be safe and a lot of fun,” said Batchelder, “but when we go onto the ice, we need to use good judgment and observe several safety precautions.”


  • Leave your car or truck on shore.  Every year several motor vehicles go through the ice on Vermont lakes, and people have drowned as a result.
  • Leave information about your plans with someone -- where you intend to fish and when you expect to return.​
  • Wear a personal flotation device and don't fish alone.
  • Dress for the cold weather!  Wear several layers of loose-fitting, breathable layers of clothes.  Also hats, gloves or mittens and warmers for hands and feet to prevent frost bite and hypothermia.​
  •   Fish with a friend.  Ice fishing is a great sport to share with family members and friends, and having a partner with you increases both the fun and the safety.
  • Ice varies in thickness and condition.  Always carry an ice spud or chisel to check ice as you proceed.
  • Be extremely cautious crossing ice near river mouths, points of land, bridges, islands, and over reefs and springs.  Current almost always causes ice to be thinner over these areas.
  • BE AWARE of changeable weather and ice conditions, especially after a period of mild, above freezing temperatures.  Re-check the ice status BEFORE venturing onto it.
  • Avoid going onto the ice if it has melted away from the shore.  This indicates melting is underway, and ice can shift position as wind direction changes. 
  • Waves from open water can quickly break up large areas of ice.  If you can see open water in the lake and the wind picks up, get off!
  • Bring your fully-charged cell phone with you.
  • Carry a set of hand spikes to help you work your way out onto the surface of the ice if you go through.  Holding one in each hand, you can alternately punch them into the ice and pull yourself up and out.  You can make these at home, using large nails, or you can purchase them at stores that sell fishing supplies.
  • Carry a safety line that can be thrown to someone who has gone through the ice.
  • Heated fishing shanties must have good ventilation to prevent deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.  Open a window or the door part way to allow in fresh air.


For weather information and forecasts

National Weather Service Burlington office -

Recreational Forecast -