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Ice Fishing While Drinking: A Legal Guide for Fishermen

Ice Fishing While Drinking: A Legal Guide for Fishermen

Fishing is a rather common hobby, and in some areas of the world, some people take it to the next level with ice fishing.

One thing you may not know about ice fishing though – if you’re drinking alcohol while doing so, you could be getting in legal trouble!

Whether you’re an experienced angler or just someone who wants to try something different out, read on for more information about what kind of trouble drinking and ice fishing can land you in.

Can you drink alcohol while ice fishing in the United States?

USA rules for drinking while ice fishing


It’s legal to have your drinks with you and consume them if you’re okay with being within proximity of the water; however, depending on where you live in the United States, it may be illegal to drink while standing on the ice.

If a law enforcement officer were to see you drinking, this does not mean that you’re in legal danger – but if they see you standing on the ice and attempting to fish while under the influence, you could be charged with something.

Can you drink while ice fishing in Michigan?

Michigan policies

In the state of Michigan, it is illegal to drink alcohol while ice fishing.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, you may have your drinks with you while on the shore or near the water if that’s where you plan to consume them – but drinking from a glass bottle or can while standing on the frozen lake or river will get you in trouble with the law.

Can you drink alcohol while ice fishing in Ontario?

Ontario rules

It is illegal to be impaired by alcohol when out on the ice.

According to the Canadian Ice Fishing Regulations, an individual who is five times the legal limit for their age can be charged with intoxication, and it is illegal to have open liquor in a motorized vehicle or within two kilometers of any body of water.

Most of the time, officers don’t have too much interest in going out on frozen lakes checking for those who may be guilty of getting a buzz during their time on the ice.

And if no one’s been harmed, it can be tricky to prove that drinking was taking place.

In some areas that have a lot of snowbirds and tourists who visit the area during winter, however, it’s normal for officers to give out citations.

It seems like it’d be hard to determine whether someone had too much to drink or not, but if they’re more than likely to pose a threat to themselves or others, it’s probably not the best idea for them to be out on the ice in the first place.

Can you drink while ice fishing in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin rules

Wisconsin is on the top of the list of places to go ice fishing in the United States.

However, it’s illegal to drink alcohol while ice fishing here.

Police officers can give you a citation and fine if they see you in violation of the law or if there are witnesses who can say that you were drinking while out on the ice.

If someone passes out from drinking while ice fishing, the situation can be dangerous for everyone around as they may fall through the icy surface of the water.

By keeping your beverage with you though, police officers will not arrest you for possessing it – they’ll just remind you that it is against the law to do so when you’re on or near the frozen water.

Why is it dangerous to drink while ice fishing?

two beers on snow

Falling through the ice: one of the most common reasons that people die each year while ice fishing.

Heavy snow can weaken the surface, or a crack in it might go unnoticed – and you could slip right through!

Alcohol would impair your motor skills and coordination which could make it even harder to get back up on the ice if you do fall in.

Freezing to death: Another danger that comes with drinking alcohol is it can lower your body temperature more quickly than normal in the outside environment – especially if you are not already wearing proper winter clothing.

You may begin shivering to try and keep yourself warm, which can make you pass out if this continues long enough.

Can’t feel footing: While standing on thin sheets of ice doesn’t offer much opportunity for feeling your way around, there’s always a chance that you’ll accidentally step in a hole and fall through if you’re not careful. If this happens while drinking, balance becomes compromised even further – making it all that more likely that you’ll fall in!

Dehydration: Alcohol dehydrates your body quickly, so you’re more likely to get sick if you don’t have proper nutrition while participating in cold-weather activities.

Your body is using a lot of energy to maintain your body temperature which means you need to eat and drink regularly.

Lost at night in the dark: If you’re out fishing during the evening and night, it can be very hard to find your way back and you may become disoriented. This issue only increases as alcohol is involved.

What are the penalties for drinking while ice fishing?

money and fine

The consequences of a charge like this can vary depending on where you live.

While some states may allow a minor charge such as an infraction or violation to be handled without the need for a lawyer, other states may see it as a misdemeanor.

If you’re charged with something more serious such as assault or DUI, then you will most likely need a lawyer to aid in your defense – and if you go this route, expect things like loss of license and fines up to $1,000.

If you’re charged more than once, the fines and penalties can increase.

How do I legally drink while ice fishing?

Because these huts aren’t legally considered dwellings, you cannot have an open container on the water with you. As long as your drinking doesn’t interfere with your ability to fish or pose a danger to other people, this should be fine.

If you live in an area where drinking isn’t legal while fishing – make sure that you do your research before heading out onto the ice.

You want to make sure that you don’t have to worry about some friendly officers giving you a hard time once they show up – so ask questions beforehand if you’re not sure what the rules are.