Sub-freezing cold may have the marina locked up in ice, but dedicated anglers will still feel the urge to go fishing, and even if the fish are frozen stiff, a day of recreational oyster tonging or some simple cold-weather cruising can cure your cabin fever. But busting out of the slip or boat ramp can damage your boat’s fiberglass. For all you winter boaters with a mission, this ice-breaking tactic will get you out on the water, without doing any harm.


1. Using a spud, gaff handle, or mop, perforate the ice around your boat. Then apply pressure until you can break off chunks, freeing the hull. Note – if you’re launching at a ramp back down slowly and break holes for your trailer lights. If you merely back the trailer onto the ice and let it break through from its own weight, there’s a good chance you’ll shatter the lights or rip off some wiring.

2. Continue busting ice manually until you get about 20 feet of open water in front of your boat; this is the hard part, and depending on how thick the ice is, it could take a while.

3. Back the boat as close as possible to the edge of the ice you need to bust, and tilt your drive up until the prop is just a few inches below the water. Then shift into forward and briefly apply a hefty dose of power. Immediately shift back into reverse, to stop your forward motion. The prop-wash will blast open the ice immediately behind the boat, and create waves that help break up surrounding ice.

winter boating

Don't let a layer of ice and sub-freezing temperatures stop you from fishing - watch this video to see how you can break out of the ice in a frozen marina or boat ramp without damaging your boat.

4. Repeat the process until you’ve blown out a path to open waters.

5. Now, let’s go catch some fish!

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Written by: Lenny Rudow
With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld,, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.