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How to Deal With Slush when Ice Fishing?

How to Deal With Slush when Ice Fishing?

Slush is an ice angler’s worst nightmare. Learning how to deal with slush when ice fishing requires experience and understanding of why the slush is a problem. If you don’t ice fish a lot, this is something you may have never even thought about.

The slush builds up on the ice and can freeze over, creating a very thin and weak layer of ice on top. When you walk across it, the thin ice breaks and you find yourself up to your knees in slush. Traveling light and walking familiar paths are two ways to prevent this from happening.

What Causes Slush on Ice?

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Slush can form on ice in many ways, but there’s one issue that a lot of ice anglers run into that you’ll want to avoid at all costs.

After a heavy snowstorm you have a lot of snow resting on the frozen ice. The pressure of the snow actually bends the ice, allowing water to work its way up from the ice below. The water then mixes with the fresh snow sitting on top and creates a sloppy, slurry mess.

From there, it begins to freeze over again, but everything underneath still remains soft and squishy.

As a result, you can be walking on what you think is perfectly hard ice and suddenly break through the thin frozen layer and find yourself trekking through three feet of slush. If you’re pulling a sled or carrying gear by hand, this can be a disaster. You might fall, drop your gear, and get everything soaking wet.

It gets even worse if you’re traveling by snowmobile or ATV. The slush will slow you down and add more weight to your machine while you’re driving. If you’re cutting in close and riding on 4-5 inch ice, this could spell disaster.

Is Slush Ice Safe?

unsafe slush ice

Slush ice is never something you want to encounter, but it’s not necessarily “unsafe” if you know what you’re doing and you prepare properly.

In the following section, I’m going to cover some of the things you can do to lessen the risk of slush and manage yourself if you get caught in a slushy situation.

How to Deal With Slush When Ice Fishing?

As previously mentioned, slush doesn’t have to be a hazard on the ice. There are ways to avoid it and ways to lessen the blow if you encounter it. Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to deal with slush when ice fishing.


to prepare for ice slush

You need to prepare ahead of time and always anticipate that you’ll encounter slush. You should also know the conditions that cause slush.

If you’ve hit a warm spell following a large snowstorm, there’s going to be slush on the ice. In reality, this is when a lot of people go out ice fishing because of the more comfortable temperatures.

Talk with people as well. When you get to the lake, if you see someone coming off, ask questions. Ask them how the slush is. Most anglers will be more than happy to help you out.

Pack Light

pack light

If you think you might hit some slushy conditions, don’t bring all the gear you normally would. Leave the shelter and heavy gas auger at home.

By traveling light, you’re decreasing your chances of breaking through the frozen layer. If it’s already a slushy mess, then you’re just making it easier to carry everything.

I also recommend taking multiple trips because the more trips you take, the better path you’re creating. By walking back and forth, you’re packing the snow down and making it easier each time you come back. If you absolutely must bring heavy gear, save it for last.

Choose Your Machine Wisely

choose your machine wisely

If you’re using a snowmobile, the first instinct is to go with something light, right? While a lighter snowmobile will glide nicely without pressing the snow down, it will also get stuck easier. Heavier machines might seem out of the question, but there’s an argument for them as well.

Heavy snowmobiles usually have a wider and longer track which distributes the weight better. If you get yourself going, you should be able to glide across the snow, and if you do get stuck, the heavier machines have the power to get you out without much of a struggle.

The important thing to remember is if you feel your rear end slushing up, don’t stop or slow down. Just keep going until you get to your hole. If you stop completely, you’re doomed.

Avoid Slush Where Possible

avoid slush where possible

This tip might seem kind of obvious but you’d be surprised. Slush is usually a darker color and will look sunken in.

If you’re fishing a primarily untouched lake, these areas are easy to find. If you’re fishing a popular ice fishing lake with a lot of paths and heavy traffic, you’ll never be able to see them.

I recommend traveling paths that look like they’ve been walked already, and if there aren’t any paths, avoid walking on areas that appear darker or wetter than others.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of things you can do to help limit the risk of slush. Travel light, use the right snowmobile, and keep your eyes open at all times. In some situations, running into slush is inevitable.

Keep all the tips in this guide in mind next time you hit the ice and maybe you won’t have to go home soaking wet. Good luck and be safe!


Friday 27th of January 2023

Thank you for good information. Our lake is often slush ice. Sometimes our snowmobile get stuck by that. From Japan.