Where Is Ice Fishing Most Popular?


You may have heard about ice fishing and wondered who exactly is doing it. Who is it that wants to sit in cold weather and catch fish? Where in the world is it that ice fishing is popular?

Ice fishing is most popular in regions with cold winters, a lot of fresh water, and a lot of open space. This means vast areas of North America and parts of Europe, particularly Scandinavia.

Ice fishing is popular in many of the more rural areas of the world. There are other factors that make it a favorite local pastime in certain areas as well.

Cold Winters Means Good Ice Fishing

The most important quality an area needs to have, of course, is cold winters. After all, ice fishing needs ice. For a lake to freeze, the temperature needs to get quite cold. You probably remember that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius). So, in areas that don’t get very cold during the winter, the water is not going to freeze.

It takes time for lakes to freeze. Just because the temperature in an area gets below freezing for a couple of hours, that doesn’t mean the lakes are going to freeze. Water is more resistant to temperature change than air is. So, the temperature needs to be cold for a long while to get a lake good for ice fishing.

The reason ice fishing is possible is that when ice forms, it floats above warmer water, insulating it and letting fish live on through the winter. Beneath a thick sheet of ice may be thousands of fish. Those who ice fish experience a unique kind of fishing and often have a lot of success.

Naturally, ice fishing is only popular in areas where there are many lakes and rivers. There are some cold areas in the world that lack a lot of fresh water, so they are out of luck when it comes to fishing.

Another necessary component of ice fishing’s popularity is a large amount of land that is legally open to fishing. Ice fishing is not an activity done within urban areas. There need to be lakes, a bit far from civilization, open to the public.

That said, these spots are not necessarily hundreds of miles away from big cities, so ice fishing is still an activity people can spend a day doing and go home to sleep in their own beds.

Also, rivers aren’t good for ice fishing because it is more difficult for flowing water to freeze than it is for still water. But this isn’t much of an issue when it comes to this question, because if there are rivers, there are going to be lakes somewhere along the way. Just remember this if you choose to go ice fishing.

Popular Areas for Ice Fishing in North America

I’ve described the general qualities of areas where ice fishing is popular, but what are some specific regions where it’s popular? In North America, there are many.

A huge percentage of the United States has cold enough winters for lakes to freeze and for ice fishing to be popular.

The West Coast is not one of these regions, though it is possible to ice fish in parts of California.

Anything too Southern is a no-go, too, because even if some of these areas might get snow, the winters simply aren’t long or cold enough, generally. So while states like Alabama or Texas may have much fishing to offer, but ice fishing is not going to happen.

Desert areas like Nevada and Arizona are not good for it either, and you can probably guess why: not enough water, and not cold enough.

With all that said, that leaves an absolutely massive amount of land where ice fishing can happen.

An online forum for ice fishing called iceshanty.com has people discussing ice fishing in dozens of states. Here is a list of all states for which they host active discussions for ice fishermen living or visiting there:

  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

If you are not from the U.S., you might not have heard of all of these states, which is part of what makes them so great for ice fishing: there are few people living there, so there is a huge amount of open land. One of the greatest experiences of fishing in the winter can be the quiet, and ice fishing in places like Wyoming or North Dakota will provide that.

Other states like New York do have big cities in them, but they have more quiet countrysides hours away as well. It is in these areas that people like to go ice fishing. Getting time away from the busy city life is an incredibly relaxing experience.

When people in America go ice fishing, it’s often something they do with their friends. It’s a lot of fun to relax and sit on the lake with friends, as long as you prepare well. This is part of the reason ice fishing is popular throughout the United States.

If you ever want to visit any of these states in the winter, the locals will certainly have opinions on what spots are best. A few examples of lakes that have been frequently recommended online: Higgins Lake, Michigan, Lake of the Woods, Minnesota, or Lake Champlain, Vermont. Perhaps you would want to decide which part of America you want to visit and plan a fishing trip from there.

When it comes to ice fishing, you can’t forget about the big country right north of the United States: Canada. Canada is huge, and a bit colder than the United States generally, so there are tons of lakes where you can go ice fishing in the winter.

For example, there is Lake Simcoe in Ontario. If you want to visit Canada, I would again take the approach of choosing an area you most want to see, and choosing a fishing spot from there. Practically the whole country in the winter seems within a reasonable distance of a place to catch fish under the ice.

Outdoor activities are a huge part of life in Canada, and just like in the U.S., ice fishing is a great social activity.

So when it comes to North America, a large percentage of the country holds people who are fans of ice fishing. While the large crowds in cities might not care for it, out in small towns and rural areas, you are sure to meet plenty of people who love to fish during all seasons.

Popular Areas for Ice Fishing In Europe

It might seem like ice fishing is not as popular in Europe as in North America, but there are definitely regions where many people do it. These include Sweden, Greenland, and Finland.

As you would expect, these areas have cold winters and plenty of fresh water. There are some extremely beautiful spots that should not be overlooked. In fact, there are some locations quite unique from what American ice fishing offers.

Near the capital city of Finland, for example, it is actually possible to go ice fishing in the winter on the coast of the sea, and many people do this. What a unique way to catch ocean fish!

In Sweden, there are regions of the Lule River that are normally only accessible by boat, but can be reached via ice in the winter, though this is technically not ice fishing! It is certainly a unique and amazing winter experience.

Or you can head over to Ammassalik Island in Greenland where you’ll be able to spend some time with classic fishermen. That are using little more than a wooden pole with a string and hook at the end of it as their rod Greenland is cold enough to have some incredibly deep lakes that have a bounty of fish to aim for as you cast your rod.

Ice fishing is certainly not limited to North America. Anywhere with cold winters and plenty of fresh water will offer it.

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Stripped Bass.

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