5 Best Ice Fishing Picks and Why You Need Them

Geoff Stadnyk in Fishing Accessories on

Now that winter is around the corner, it’s important to have the best ice fishing picks (aside from the best ice fishing chairs) before venturing out in the cold. Ice freezes in patches. Moving from one site to another without this safety gear can be dangerous.

A lot of ice fishing-related injuries happen each year. These, unfortunately, could have been avoided if anglers only carried a pair of ice safety picks with them.

Carrying an ice pick is the difference between a memorable trip and a tragic one. Keep on reading to know what to consider when choosing one and a few tips on how to use it effectively for your ice fishing safety.

Table of Contents

Best Overall Ice Fishing Safety Pick

This is the best ice fishing safety pick for a good reason. It has all the features good ice picks should have.

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Most winter anglers purchase this product before hitting the ice.

  • Type – retractable ice picks
  • Attachment length – stretchable up to 72 inches
  • Handles – plastic

The first thing you’ll notice about this ice pick is it’s retractable. This means the points will stay inside the sheath to prevent poking you or your clothes. They’re only activated by downward pressure, which means the points won’t get in the way while doing other activities.

The handles are also made of plastic. Unfortunately, these don’t float so you have to attach some bobbers to make them stay that way.

Most importantly, the cord connecting the two handles is stretchable by up to 72 inches. This means you can put your ice fishing vest over the ice picks. Simply slide each handle through the jacket’s arms, across your back, and out the cuff.

What We Like
- Strong enough to support people on the heavier side.
- Has sharp tips to penetrate any iced hole.
- Lightweight.
Know Before Buying
- These don't come with floating handles.
- The ridges are a bit small and the handles can be longer.
- The plastic handles are soft and feel cheap.

Best Premium Ice Fishing Safety Pick

These ice picks come in bright orange that's perfect for low-light conditions.

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Keep in mind, though, that they are in the premium range.

  • Type – retractable ice picks
  • Attachment length – 5 feet
  • Handles – plastic

Just like the first product, what’s great about these is that they’re retractable. Retractable ice picks are the best option since the points will remain hidden and won’t get in the way when not in use.

They come with short yet pointed picks that can cut through any hole. The lanyard is also made of a thin, strong rope, though I prefer the more stretchable type.

The handles are four inches long, give solid handholds, and stay afloat. They’re very light weight too and are compact enough to fit in your vest pocket.

What We Like
- Retractable and provides excellent traction.
- The handles float in the water.
- The attachment connecting the handles is very long.
Know Before Buying
- On the more expensive side.

Most Convenient Ice Fishing Safety Pick

Eagle Claw is one of the most recognized brands in the fishing industry.

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These ice picks live up to the brand’s reputation and they have since been a staple in every ice fisherman’s fishing gear.

  • Type – retractable ice safety picks
  • Attachment – stretchable
  • Handle – molded EVA handles

These ice safety picks come with stainless steel spikes to help withstand any winter fishing situation. They have molded EVA handles too, to help provide better grip.

The cord that attaches both handles is stretchable and super-long. I’m a fan of these stretchable cords since they let me place the ice pick inside my vest and secure them as needed.

This product is available in a bright red color so others can easily see you even from a distance. You can also expect them to be very light and convenient to carry so you can easily add them to your existing fishing gear.

What We Like
- Retractable.
- Features molded handles for a better grip.
- The attachment is very long and stretchable.
Know Before Buying
- The spikes don't stay close together and slide in and out even without effort.
- The handles feel cheap.
- The spikes aren't that sharp compared to the other products.

Most Compact Ice Fishing Safety Pick

This ice pick may be small but it can have a huge impact.

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Grab this ice pick right now for that peace of mind before hitting the ice!

  • Type – fixed, not retractable
  • Attachment length – stretchable, 30-inch nylon
  • Handles – molded

If shopping for this product, the first thing you’ll notice is its molded handles. But, while some customers expected these to offer a better grip, they don’t seem to work that way.

The handles are connected by long, stretchable nylon. The 5-inch picks come in sturdy and compact handles that you can easily fit in any vest pocket.

Unfortunately, the two handles don’t stick well together. They slide off effortlessly, making them very dangerous as you can accidentally slash yourself.

What We Like
- These come with floating handles, so you're assured they will stay near if they fall off your neck.
- The attachment is very long and stretchable.
- Lightweight and small enough to fit in any jacket pocket.
Know Before Buying
- The picks aren't very sharp.
- The handles don't lock and slip off easily.

Best Value for Money Ice Fishing Safety Pick

This product's design is what sets it apart from the other products on this list.

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The spikes are also very sharp and durable, making them a must-have for any ice fishing emergency situation.

  • Type – retractable ice pick
  • Attachment length – 22 inches, extendable
  • Handles – contoured

The first thing I noticed about this item is its unique shape. It has handles that almost look like a gun with contoured finger grips for maximum grip.

It features hardened steel spikes to ensure maximum holding power, no matter how thick the ice is. The attachment joining the two handles is extendable as well, giving you the freedom to use this ice pick in any way you want.

These give the product the best value for money in my opinion.

Just beware when using this product in California. Some chemicals in this product were found to cause cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive harm.

What We Like
- Comes with hardened steel spikes to cut through any type of ice.
- Long coil attachment.
- Unique handle design for optimal gripping power.
Know Before Buying
- A little difficult to pull the handles apart, may need some getting used to.

What are Ice Fishing Picks?

Imagine setting up your underwater camera for ice fishing when suddenly the ice your on breaks and you fall into the water. What do you do?

Use your safety pick to pull yourself out!

Soaked clothes are heavy and make hypothermia kick in quickly. Rescue can take some time to arrive, so use your ice pick to get out of the water as fast as possible.

Also called ice picks or bear claws, ice fishing safety picks are spike tips made of hardened steel so they won’t bend easily. They are pointed, but not very sharp.

The spikes are attached to handles made of either wood or plastic. These are then connected by a string or cord so you can easily hang them around your neck.

Ice fishing safety picks are the most inexpensive yet most important piece of ice fishing gear you can own. Consider them as cheap insurance. While you’ll never wish to use them, it also won’t hurt to have them with you while ice fishing for crappie.

Ice fishing on a Michigan pond, an angler uses electronic fish finder to catch fish.

How to Choose The Best Ice Fishing Picks

Having ice fishing safety picks is just as essential as having ice fishing heaters. Having an ice fishing heater keeps you warm while without making any fire while fishing.

They’re straightforward pieces of equipment as well. But, while any product on the market will do, there are a few things you may want to consider:

Retractable Sheaths

Ice fishing safety picks can either have exposed points, covers, or even be retractable. Those with retractable sheaths offer the best value for money.

I suggest choosing a pair with retractable sheaths around the points. They help protect you by preventing the picks from poking you or your winter clothes when not in use.

Do not choose an ice pick with exposed points as they can keep on poking you. Picks with fixed covers, on the other hand, are also not advisable since you have to remove them manually while going through the ice.

Durable with a Strong Attachment

Choose spikes that are strong and thick enough so they can handle your weight. There’s no substitute for this since you’ll be using this device to pull you out of the water to save your life.

The attachment should be strong and thick too, to keep the handles attached so you don’t lose them.

Floating Handles

Anything made of plastic or wood will do. Make sure that the handles float so they can stay close to you in case they slip off your neck.

Try submerging them in a tub filled with water to test whether they float or not.

How Do You Wear a Frabill Ice Pick?

You wear a Frabill ice pick, or an ice pick in general, around your neck. This is why the handles are connected by some kind of attachment!

Avoid putting your ice pick inside your jacket. Doing this means you have to dig and search for the ice pick first, which defeats the intended use. An ice pick should be readily-available and putting it around your neck to break the ice is the only way to save your life.

Two young men ice fishing in a winter environment. Horizontal shot.

How Thick Should Ice Be to Be Considered Safe?

You can use these guidelines to help you assess the safety of your ice fishing site. But, there are still other components you should consider like recent weather patterns, snow cover, etc.

Generally, you should never risk walking on thin ice. Outdoor ice should be at least 4 inches thick before attempting to go winter fishing on foot. It should be 6-8 inches for ice fishing sleds, snowmobiles or ATVs, while 9-12 inches for UTVs and medium-light vehicles.

Moreover, pay attention to the quality of the ice. New, first ice is safer than cloudy ice. Clear ice means that it hadn’t melted yet or been insulated by snow.

Keep in mind that this guide is only an estimate and not a rule.

In Conclusion

Falling through ice is something you would never want to experience. But, it’s always a good idea to have a pair of ice picks around in case of a fall.

Geoff Stadnyk

Geoff started fishing as a child in the gorgeous lakes of Mammoth, while on family vacations. His fishing experience includes the use of fly rod and reel. Guided trips along the Madison and Gallatin rivers in Montana, the Frying Pan and Animus in Colorado, and the Deschutes river in Oregon have all paid off and helped make Geoff the angler and writer that he is today.

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