Ice fishing provides a unique opportunity to enjoy Alberta’s lakes and fish during the winter months.
Follow the regulations
Many sportfishing regulations are designed to support the management of easily caught and vulnerable species – these apply year-round. Learn the regulations for the waterbody where you’ll be fishing and check for:
- Open fishing season
- Common species
- Know how to identify them
- Bait bans & other gear restrictions
- Catch and size limits
Although a lot of gear used for fishing in the open water season can be used for ice fishing, some specific gear is required for fishing on ice to keep both you and the fish safe. Fill up your tackle box and get ready for a fun day on the ice:
- A mechanical or gas-powered ice auger to drill a hole large enough for the species you are targeting
- Measuring board
- Ice fishing rod & reel or tip-up
- Pliers or a hook removal tool
- Lures that can be easily removed
- Wool or cotton gloves
- Nail clippers or knife
- First aid kit, extra clothing & an emergency plan
Ice huts (shelters) can make ice fishing during the cold, windy days much more enjoyable. For structures placed on the ice for the purpose of shelter while fishing, there are rules that apply to protect fish populations and our lakes:
- If you are leaving your ice fishing shelter on the ice for longer than 24 hours, you must label it with the following information written in a contrasting colour with text 2.5 cm or taller:
- Your Wildlife Identification Number (WIN), or
- Your name and telephone number
- You must remove the shelter:
- On or before March 15th if you are within Fisheries Management Area PP1
- On or before March 31st on any waterbody within Fisheries Management Areas PP2, ES1-ES4, NB1-NB4
If break up is going to occur earlier, a fishery officer may direct owners to remove ice huts immediately. If ice huts are not removed before ice break up, debris can enter the water putting both people and our fish populations at risk. Do you part to maintain the health of Alberta’s lakes, providing clean, safe places for our fish populations to thrive.
If you are catch and release fishing, or your catch doesn’t meet the regulations, be prepared to release the fish quickly and safely. Proper fish handling increases the fish’s chance of survival to grow and reproduce after being caught and handled.
- Keep the fish in the water as much as possible. Even a short amount of time out of the water where the fish is unable to breathe is harmful.
- If you must remove the fish from the water, minimize the time it is out of the water.
- Never place the fish directly on the ice or snow.
- Exposure to freezing air temperature and human touch will damage the gills and eyes; do not touch them or squeeze the fish.
- For fish being released, remove the hook, while the fish is in the water, without handling it if possible. If you plan to keep your catch, measure the fish as quickly as possible to determine if the fish is legal to keep.
- If taking a photo, get your camera ready while the fish is still in the water.
- Gently release the fish headfirst, allowing them to swim away on their own.
Making sure the ice is thick enough is one of the most important parts of planning your trip. As part of your emergency plan, you should ensure all members of your fishing party are aware of what to do if they fall through the ice. Visit our ice safety page to learn more:
New to ice fishing? Watch this video to learn more about the basics of ice fishing.
Updated: Dec 10, 2020