The 7 Best Ice Fishing Safety Picks in 2024 (Essential Tools)

Would you agree that ice fishing is one of the best things about the winter months?

Of course you would!

But as fun as it is – it’s not without its dangers.

That’s why safety should always be of the utmost importance when you’re out on the hard water, and you should be prepared for anything.

With this in mind, in this article, we take a look at the best ice fishing safety picks for 2024.

Although falling in is rare, it does occur, and you’ll be glad you have this tool on hand if you do happen to take an icy dunk.

Let’s check out the pick of the picks!

Ice Fishing Picks – A Brief Guide & TOP 3 Picks

A full buyer’s guide will follow the reviews, but here’s a quick summary of what you should be looking out for when choosing the best ice safety picks for your needs.

  • Materials and grip – look for durable, non-slip construction and design.
  • Retractable or fixed spikes – which do you prefer?
  • Cord quality and length – consider how you’re wearing them.
  • Do they float? How important is it for you that they do?
  • Color – bright designs are easier to see.
  • Cost – an inexpensive safety device that could save your life? The budget shouldn’t be an issue here.

We’ll also be taking a look at how to properly use ice safety picks, as well as why you definitely need them.

In the meantime, here are my top three “picks” for the best ice fishing safety picks on the market.

Given their popularity and ratings, I think my number one “pick” has to be the Frabill deluxe retractable ice picks. Solid, durable, and highly practical, they’re designed to be worn over your back and through the arms of your jacket. Or one of these safe and warm ice fishing suits if you prefer.

I think my next pick has to be the Rapala option, as I really like their grip design, and I think they’re probably the most durable of all the ice fishing picks available.

Finally, as you’ll find out, the NRS Pick-of-Life ice awls are almost flawless in their design. Bright, durable, unsinkable, and retractable, they would place higher if they weren’t the most expensive choice.

An honorable mention should also go to these Ice Hammer safety picks, which come in a set of two and include a safety whistle as a great addition.

So, do you agree with my “picks?”

See if you can find your favorite in the reviews, below. And you can also check out this article for a complete ice fishing gear list to see if there’s anything else you’re missing before you set out.

TOP 7 Best Ice Fishing Safety Picks for 2024

Frabill Deluxe Retractable Ice Picks

Frabill has been designing and manufacturing quality fishing accessories and equipment since 1938, so they know a thing or two about performance-driven gear.

That’s why these retractable ice picks are up there with the best safety spikes for ice fishing on the market. The spikes are only activated with downward pressure, so you can be sure you won’t catch your hands or clothing accidentally on the business end.

Made from durable materials and finished in bright yellow, the handles are plastic, and joined with 72-inches of retractable cord.


  • Name to trust in ice fishing gear.
  • Durable construction.
  • Very highly rated.
  • Good heft, without being heavy.


  • They don’t float.
  • The cord might be too short for some.


If I were to choose one set of ice fishing safety picks, it would probably be this option from Frabill. Perfect for fitting through the sleeves of one of these awesome ice fishing jackets, and saving your life if necessary!

Rapala Ice Safety Spikes

One of the best and most iconic fishing brands in the world (follow that link for more). Rapala enters the fray now with this set of ice safety spikes. Founded in Finland, they will be no stranger to cold weather, and their trademark quality can be seen here.

A unique design, they offer specially contoured handles that are almost like a finger pistol grip, and the steel spikes are sharp and durable.

The retractable cord is 22-inches long, and finishes a solidly made set of spikes that feel weighty, reliable, and comfortable to use.

And they even have a clever way to store the picks when not in use – with the spikes sliding back into the handles.


  • Name to trust.
  • Solid, durable construction.
  • Comfortable grip.
  • Easy to store.


  • Floating handles would have made these a real winner.


A great option from an iconic brand, these highly rated ice safety spikes have been well-designed and constructed. Just be aware that the spikes are not meant to be stored in the handle when you’re actually on the ice – as one unnecessarily negative reviewer has incorrectly believed.

NRS Pick-of-Life Ice Awls

Based out of Idaho and founded in 1972, Northwest River Supplies has developed an enviable range of equipment, gear, and apparel for enjoying safe and exciting fun on the water – frozen or otherwise.

These “Pick-of-Life” ice awls might be more expensive than other options, but for my money they certainly tick all the boxes. Each solid hand grip is four inches long, with retractable sheaths that cover the durable one-inch spikes.

An extra-long 5 1/4′ cord joins the two, and it features reflective ticking, so you can locate the tool in low light and poor conditions.

And I believe they are the only retractable ice safety picks that float. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong in the comments.


  • Top-quality construction.
  • Bright orange design – easy to see.
  • Unsinkable.
  • Extra-long cord.


  • The most expensive ice safety picks on the market.


A quality option from a quality company, these ice awls from NRS are probably the best money can buy, although they’re a little more pricey as a result.

Ice Hammer Safety Picks

Ice Hammer Safety Picks

With durable, molded handles, these ice hammer safety picks are built to last, and should serve you for many seasons to come. And not only that, but this set is real value for money, as two pairs are included in the price.

Keep one for yourself and give the other to a loved one, they also come with a safety whistle built-in, so you can signal for help in any kind of emergency.

Connected by a long lanyard cord and stored in a protective plastic sheath, these ice safety picks are sharp and ready to potentially save your life – in more ways than one.


  • Great price for what you get.
  • Solid, durable construction.
  • Bright orange color.
  • Safety whistle.


  • The jury’s out on whether they float or not.


I think the inclusion of the safety whistle really sets these ice fishing picks apart, as even if you don’t fall in the water, it can still be used in any kind of emergency situation. And at this price – getting two – it’s a great deal.

HT Enterprises Retractable Polar Ice Picks

HT Enterprises Deluxe Retractable Polar Ice Picks

Utilizing a similar design to the Frabill model, there are a number of key differences with our next pick of picks.

These HT Enterprises deluxe polar ice picks feature a super-grippy EVA handle, and retractable sheaths to cover the spikes when not in use.

Rather than a plastic coil, they use a colorful corded lanyard to connect the two handles, which has been fed through an eyelet and tightly knotted at each end.

Solid and durable, they make a great addition to your ice fishing safety gear. And for more essential items for when you’re on the ice, you can follow that link.


  • Light and compact.
  • Grippy handles.
  • Extra-long lanyard.


  • The black handles might be difficult to see.
  • Reports that the cord eyelets split easily.


Another great ice safety pick option, the extra-long lanyard on this particular model might be better for people with a longer wingspan.

Clam Floating Ice Picks

Clam are a hugely popular company in ice anglers circles, given the fact that they make products dedicated to the sport.

These ice safety picks come in their trademark sky blue color, and are the first picks in our review that have been designed to float.

Connected by a length of 30-inch nylon coiled cord, they can sit easily around the neck, and the spikes are ready to go when you need them.

The five-inch handles have a contoured design for comfort, and are feature ridges for added grip and control.


  • Name to trust in ice fishing.
  • Floating ice picks.
  • Durable construction.
  • Compact and lightweight.


  • The spikes aren’t retractable.


While some folks won’t like the exposed spikes, I’m of the opinion that they’re ready to go, and you know they’re going to do the job you bought them for.

Eagle Claw Retractable Safety Picks

Eagle Claw Retractable Safety Picks

Based out of Denver, Colorado, and founded back in 1925, Eagle Claw are famous for their fishing hooks, and one of the most recognizable brands in the business.

This is their take on ice fishing safety picks, a retractable device that will only operate when downward pressure is applied.

The EVA handles offer good grip, while the two spikes are joined by an extra-long cord. And for more from Eagle Claw products (and many others) check out this article on the best fishing pliers on the market.


  • Name to trust in fishing.
  • Retractable spikes.
  • Long cord.
  • Durable construction.


  • Again, the handles might be difficult to see in low light conditions.


If Eagle Claw can design super sharp fishing hooks that get the job done, then I’m sure they can design life-saving ice safety spikes just as well.

Ice Fishing Safety Picks – A Buyer’s Guide

To be honest, there’s not much to ice safety picks, so our usual in-depth buyers guide might be a little light on “features” this time.

However, you do need to know how to use them properly – and why you need them in the first place.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at these tools that could potentially save your life.

ice fisherman foot on broken cracked thin ice

What are Ice Fishing Safety Picks?

Ice safety picks have two, handheld grips with a protruding steel spike at the end of each, and they’re both connected by a rope or cord, so you can hang them around your neck.

That’s pretty much it!

They certainly don’t have all the complex features and steep learning curves of some of these awesome fish flasher gadgets!

But they can save your life.

You can use this simple but highly effective tool to help pull yourself out of a hole in the ice, should you ever have the misfortune to fall through.

But just how necessary are they?

Do You Need Safety Picks for Ice Fishing?

I know plenty of ice anglers who regularly venture onto the ice without safety picks.

But I’m not one of them.

Even if you’re confident the ice is thick, you’re staying close to the shore, or any number of reasons why you might think there’s no chance of you falling in or through, I would highly recommend you carry picks regardless.

Accidents can and do occur. Ice anglers have lost their lives because they were not prepared. Because the unexpected happened. Because they didn’t have the right equipment or knowledge for self rescue.

The old adage applies – “if you don’t know – don’t go.”

And part of “knowing” is understanding that ice can have weak spots, and one step in the wrong place will have you breaking through in a matter of seconds.

You should also understand that it’s not the falling through that will shorten your life – but the not being able to get back out.

After the shock of the water temperature, you might start to panic – especially as you desperately try to gain traction on the ice surface to pull yourself out of the freezing water.

But on that slippery ice sheet, you’re not going to be able to get any purchase – at least not without help. And in these temperatures, hypothermia will occur within minutes.

If only you had something to help dig into the ice, so you could haul yourself to safety, right…?

Now, that’s not to scare you off – ice fishing is perfectly safe providing you use common sense and take the right precautions.

And ice safety picks are just one of the tools that will give you and your loved ones the peace of mind that you’ll be able to climb out of a hole in the ice should it ever break from under you.

And here’s another adage just for good measure – “I’d rather have them and not need them, than need them and not have them.”

The short answer?

Yes, you need ice fishing safety picks.

And hey, don’t forget, they’re just as useful if you’re skating, camping, hiking, or snowshoeing on the ice.

But they’re no good if you don’t know how to use them, so read on for an excellent instructional video.

a man is fishing on the ice in the winter

How to Use Ice Safety Picks?

Much like a rock climber uses a climbing axe to scale a vertical surface, an ice fishing safety pick is used to pull your way across a horizontal one.

The points on the ice pick work in a similar fashion to the business end of a climbing axe – digging into the surface to provide the traction and leverage you need to get where you need to go.

But I could write a thousand words on the subject, and it would be nowhere near as helpful as the example demonstrated by the hero of a man in the video below.

All credit to him for putting his body on the line to demonstrate the proper technique for self rescue – and how to get out of freezing cold water using ice safety picks.

Ice Safety Pick Features

While they might not have all the bells and whistles as other products featured on Bonfirebob (like these electric ice augers, for example), there are a few features you need to look out for with ice safety picks.

  • Materials and Grip – Examine what the picks have been made from, and choose something that has been built to last, with a comfortable grip that isn’t going to slip out of your hand.
  • Retractable Sheaths – Some have them, some don’t. While the ice pick spikes aren’t particularly sharp, they can still snag on clothing or your hands. Having them covered while not in use is a sensible option.
  • Cord Quality and Length – Lanyards can be made from coiled plastic or a corded material. The length is important, as you want to be sure the picks are going to sit exactly where you need them to – depending on how you prefer to wear them.
  • Floating Handles – Not all ice safety picks float. This shouldn’t be too much of a concern if you’re wearing them properly, but it’s a nice bonus just in case they ever do slip from your person.
  • Color – Ice fishing spikes should be bright, bold, and easy to see. In the dark or in a panic, you need to be able to find and grab them with ease.
  • Cost – This is usually where I’d tell you to buy the best you can afford, relative to how much you’re going to use them. But as these things are inexpensive, and they’re a cost-effective form of life insurance, budget doesn’t matter so much!

fisherman on the ice on the frozen lake with his equipment in a sled


What are ice picks for ice fishing?

Contrary to what you might find behind a bar, an ice pick for ice fishing, or ice fishing safety spikes are tools that you use to help pull yourself out of the water should you fall in.

Two grippy handles with steel points are connected by a cord, and it’s these points that you use to drive into the ice, providing you with enough purchase to haul yourself back up onto the surface.

Do ice safety picks work?

Yes. There are plenty of reports out there from people who have fallen in or broken through the ice and credit ice safety picks with saving their lives.

I hope that none of my readers ever get to find out, but a good quality set of ice safety picks won’t fail you in an emergency.

How do you wear ice picks?

That’s a great question.

The answer is not wrapped around your waist, not in your pockets, and certainly not left back at home.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Hold one pick in your right hand, and as you do so, put your arm through your ice jacket sleeve.
  2. Hold the other pick in your left hand, and put your arm through the other sleeve.
  3. The ice picks should now be positioned close to the ends of your sleeves, within easy reach should you need them, with the cord running up and across your back, under your jacket.

Alternatively, you can simply have them dangling from around your neck, but they are likely to get in your way, and can easily fall off using this method.

How long do ice safety picks last?

It depends on the quality of the pick, and how much they have been used, but generally speaking, a good ice safety pick set should last you for several seasons at least.

I would certainly be inspecting them at the beginning and end of every season, testing them out (without falling in), and replacing them if you feel they’re past their best.

How do you know when ice is safe to walk on?

That’s an excellent question. Check out the video below, which offers a more concise, visual answer than I could ever hope to explain in words.

And for more of the best ice fishing safety tips, feel free to follow that link, and you can go here for the best ice fishing boots that will help you walk out there in the first place.

Can a knife be used as an ice pick?

Do you mean when you’re making cocktails, or when you’re ice fishing? Either way, I wouldn’t advise it.


Simple, inexpensive, and effective – it’s amazing that more ice anglers aren’t using the best ice fishing safety picks – but hopefully that is changing.

Let me know which option you’ve gone for and why, or if you have tips you’d like to share with the community for safety when out on the hard water.

Stay safe out there, stay warm, tight lines, and happy ice fishing!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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