Cure Your Cabin Fever this Winter by Ice Fishing

If the weather is cooperative, January and February can be the prime time to think about ice fishing in Pennsylvania. Ice fishing can be a fun, engaging activity for the whole family and is a sure cure for cabin fever. If you’ve never ventured out to ice fish before, there are some things you should know that will greatly improve your chances of success, including safety tips, the basics, and where to go. The sport is vastly different from open water fishing, but one thing they both share is the beautiful locations where you can enjoy the activity on DCNR lands.

This article was previously published on the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website.


Most state parks across Pennsylvania with lakes offer ice fishing opportunities, as well an ample number of state forests.

Popular Pennsylvania state parks and forests for ice fishing include:

Before venturing out to any location, you’ll want to find out about ice fishing opportunities and the most recent ice conditions. There needs to be a certain ice thickness to enjoy ice fishing and stay safe.

To learn about the ice conditions on DCNR lands, we recommend:

Not all state parks and forests monitor ice thickness, it's best to call the state park or forest and ask. If you’re a short distance away from the lands, you can always stop in before your trip and ask in person.


Before heading out, it’s also critical to become familiar with the rules and regulations associated with ice fishing, and always think about safety. Anyone 16 years or older will require a valid Pennsylvania fishing license and a trout stamp if targeting trout. Whether you are a seasoned ice angler or new to the activity, it’s important to know how to keep yourself and others safe on the ice.

Here are some tips (PDF) to help you safely enjoy your ice fishing adventure:

  • Test ice thickness with an auger before fishing. Four inches of solid ice is the minimum recommended thickness for a single angler. Seven inches of solid ice is the minimum recommended thickness for small groups of anglers.
  • Spread out. Crowds can put too much weight onto one area.
  • Be aware of changes in ice thickness across a body of water. Perimeter ice is weaker due to shifting, expansion and sunlight reflecting off the bottom.
  • Avoid areas with protruding logs, brush, plants, and docks. These structures absorb heat, weakening the surrounding ice.
  • Avoid areas with multiple or intersecting cracks and standing water over ice.
  • Use extra caution on rivers and streams where ice can appear thicker than it really is. Moving water erodes ice from below the surface.
  • Venturing out on ice alone is not advisable. Take a friend along for fun and for safety.
  • Wear a PFD (life jacket.
  • Always carry safety equipment and know how to use it.
  • Check the weather and plan accordingly. Several days with temperatures above freezing will weaken the ice.

For more ice fishing ideas in Pennsylvania, check out the visitPA website. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram to stay up-to-date on even more great ideas and places to visit around our state.

You might also like: Pennsylvania Ice Fishing 101

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