Ice Fishing Safety Tips
Ice fishing can be a fun adventure with a bounty to take back home or have at your shanty. But like any experience on ice, you have to ensure your safety.
The top ice fishing safety tips are never fishing alone, carrying protective equipment to crack the ice if you end up underneath it, and staying on ice thicker than at least 4 inches. You should also make sure that everyone has a throw rope, so they can be immediately rescued if anyone falls.
This article covers over sixteen tips to help you have a safe ice fishing experience. It also provides some alternate solutions to specific obstacles and concludes with the three broad areas to pay attention to for your safety.
Make Sure People Know Where to Find You
One of the joys of ice-fishing is the quiet after the auger is turned off. For this peace and solitude, many anglers decide not to share their spot or even the fact that they are out ice-fishing.
Doing this guarantees solitude but also becomes an obstacle to rescue. If you get in trouble, you want to make sure your family is not worried and that rescue efforts are not thinned out in eliminating the possibilities of where you could be.
The cold conditions which make ice fishing possible also introduce urgency to the need for rescue. Therefore the best compromise between safety and solitude is to let only the people you trust know where you are and give them a time frame within which if you do not call, they should get worried.
By doing so, you will eliminate the chance that everyone learns about your spot, and at the same time, you will be secure in the fact that a timely rescue mission will be launched as soon as you are in need of one.
Take at Least One Person With You
While introverts may favor ice fishing because of the quietness of the activity and the valuable time away from the buzz of social life, it is not advisable to go ice-fishing alone. Taking at least one friend along is highly recommended because if something happens, the friend can alert the authorities.
Furthermore, there is a time cost of delayed rescues. And an active individual around you can help immediately as soon as you find yourself in need. Moreover, your friend can lend an extra pair of hands and help drill the ice to create fishing holes and drive to the lake bank and back.
Anticipate the Cold and Get Appropriate Clothing
Many anglers take swimming classes and understand what to do if they find themselves in deep waters. However, you need to understand that if you fall through the ice, you will not only be in deep water but that you will be in frigid waters that restrict your ability to move.
That is why you should anticipate the cold and invest in a flotation suit. Not only will the suit make it easier for you to swim and stay afloat, but it will also keep you warm enough to rescue yourself if you find a solid surface to stand on.
Get the Lay of the Land and Learn How Thick the Ice Is
Our eyes can often deceive us, and that is why when it comes to your personal safety on ice, you should not rely solely on your eyes as the indicator of ice thickness. In fact, you cannot even rely on the internet to tell you about the ice thickness because of how often the layer size changes.
There could be an inflow of warmer currents melting away a significant portion from underneath a layer that ice fishing forums swear by. Not every season is alike. That is why your best source of this information is the locals. Talk to the locals about ice thickness.
You will learn about the size of the layers covering the body of water and have someone who knows you are there. It is quicker to get rescued by those present there than those who need to arrive to save you. The locals may also be able to give you safety tips that are specific to that locale.
Do Not Fish on Ice That Is Thinner Than Four Inches
While one way to catch a lot of fish is to sink your line in fresh ice because the fish are more likely to bite, this is not enough of an incentive to risk one’s personal safety. When you find that the ice covering a body of water is not thicker than four inches (10.16 centimeters), you should stay off the ice. It is too risky and is likely to break.
What is dangerous about ice over two inches (5.08 centimeters) thick is that it can hold weight for a period. Because of that, many believe it will continue to hold. However, when you are on the ice, your weight is continuing to put stress on the layer, and it is only a matter of time before it breaks.
In fact, going by pure physics, even 15 inch (38.1 centimeters) thick layers of ice that can hold a truck will break or melt under a person if he stands on it long enough. But in reality, it would take so much time that the seasons would change. This is why a certain thickness is considered safe.
But you should never assume that any layer is safe. Reduce the time you are on the ice to make sure that the safer layers don’t break under prolonged strain.
Make Sure the Ice Is at Least Eight Inches Thick Before Driving on It
One of the most difficult positions to get out of is when one’s car or trucks falls into the water as the ice gives way. That is because you not only have to swim to a solid surface but have to suddenly balance yourself in a vehicle that is moving in uncharacteristic ways.
Sometimes, the fishing spot is so far that walking to it will lead to a significant loss of time and energy. So you may be tempted to think that if the ice is safe for you to walk or run on, maybe you could just drive your car up to the spot.
But what is safe for human weight is different from other weights, so make sure to avoid driving on ice if it is less than eight to twelve inches thick (20.32 cm to 30.48 cm), depending on whether you are driving a car or a small pickup. If you are driving a heavier truck, you cannot get on the surface unless it is at least twelve inches (30.48 centimeters) thick.
Get Icepicks and Keep Them on Your Person
While a flotation suit will keep you warm and keep you from losing your ability to swim because of the cold, remember that if you fall under a specific breakage, especially on thick ice, the current underneath may sweep you away from an opening.
Because of this, your problem would not be your ability to swim but your ability to breathe. Purchase a high-quality pair of ice picks or rescue claws that you can use to break through the ice layer above your head regardless of where the current takes you.
A lot of time can be wasted trying to swim against the current and back to an opening. Instead, you can preserve your energy and start punching through the surface wherever you find the ice to be thinner.
It is also important that these picks are not a few inches away from you or in your car. They must be securely positioned on your person. The last thing you want is to bring an icepick that floats away from the moment ice breaks, and you need it. Have a holster for your rescue equipment.
Make Sure Only One Person Ventures Into Thinner Ice
When you are fishing, let’s suppose you drill into a safe eight-inch thick layer. But after a slow day of angling, you decide it is time to venture onto the clearer ice that looks like it is four to five inches (10.16 to 12.7 centimeters) thick. What do you do?
Make sure that one of your friends stays back and has a throw rope on hand. That way, when you are angling on thinner ice, if it breaks, there is someone to bring you to safety. If you both venture onto this ice and the ice gives way, you are both in trouble. If he or she wants to venture onto the thinner ice, then you should stay back. You can also alternate between the fishing holes so you can both take turns at the thinner ice.
Bring Multiple Power Banks
When you are driving for your ice fishing trip, you should not just plan for the time you plan to spend fishing but also the time you will spend driving. Your mobile phone might lose its charging during the time, and you do not want to be stranded without any power.
That is why you need to bring at least two power banks with you. While one power bank may be enough for the trip to and back, you have to account for losing your way if the lake is relatively secluded.
Auger Safety Is Ice Fishing Safety
When you decide to drill at a spot, you have two options depending on the ice’s thickness. You can use a power auger or a hand ice auger. If you use a power auger, remember to consult the owner’s manual. After all, you are using a power tool on ice.
Make sure there is nothing that can get caught in the auger’s motor and pull you in. It could be a scarf that gets caught on. It can also be loose jewelry or a shoelace. As soon as you are done drilling the hole, keep away the auger. It is worth mentioning that sometimes a blunt blade can cause havoc on ice. So be sure that the blades are sharp and replaced as often as needed.
While summer is often associated with staying hydrated, it is actually the cold in which your body is actively using up a lot of water. As we are warmblooded, our body runs in overdrive, circulating blood to keep us warm in colder temperatures. This leads to a loss of water, which might not be visible as one doesn’t sweat.
Therefore it is important to assume you are losing water and keep taking sips of warm or lukewarm water throughout your angling experience. You can carry a warm airtight box with small bottles and take out one at a time. That is because the outside temperature can make the water cold, which will make your body work even harder to warm the water internally.
Don’t Drill Over Moving Water
As you may have figured out by now, most ice fishing safety is related to ice breakage. And that is why thickness is of the utmost importance. But it is also important not to drill where the ice is thick for the time being. That is where you have to account for the friction of the current moving underneath the ice leading to surface thinning.
If you notice that there is a current underneath the ice, do not drill. If you wish to cash in the bounty of angling on freshly formed ice, make sure that the ice is at least four inches thick and do not stay on the ice for more than thirty minutes without rechecking for depth. That way, you can still carry on with your angling but without ignoring the possibility of the ice thinning under you.
Check if the Snow Is Thickest at the Shore
There are two possible formations of ice that can cover a body of water. In one formation, the ice is the thinnest at the shore and becomes thicker as you drive deeper into the lake. On the other hand, the ice extends from the shore towards the middle making the deeper parts of the lake also the thinnest ones.
You can see where to stand by looking at the freshly formed ice. Is the ice getting clearer as you move further into the lake? If that’s the case, the middle is the thinnest. If the ice is clearer around the shore but gets more opaque as you move towards the middle, then it is thickest there. This is also where asking the locals might help.
Account for the Weight on the Ice
When you are busy angling, it is possible for others to drive near your spot. And our immediate instinct is to get focused on the social aspect or to ignore them completely. You should focus on the fact that there are multiple vehicles or trucks and more people on the surface. As mentioned earlier, even safe ice becomes unsafe under enough stress.
While it is obvious that more people add more strain on the surface, what many anglers forget at their own peril is that even snow has its weight. So if it starts snowing while you are on the lake, drive away before enough snow piles on to make the ice weaker.
If you arrive to find significant heaps of snow already covering the surface, assume the ice is pretty weak already. That is not the spot to start angling in.
Hold Off on the Music So You Can Listen to Your Surroundings
One of the joys of angling is listening to one’s favorite music or even playing a podcast. But both of these stimuli take your ability to hear cracks, which are crucial signifiers of ice giving way.
If you have drilled on a thick enough surface, the ice will not immediately give away. When the thinning stats, you will first hear cracks from the strain. Take that as your sign to move to thicker parts.
Do Not Congregate Around the Same Area
While it is a great idea to have a friend nearby, three truly is a crowd. You may not be going with a group of friends, but if you find a spot where you’re catching plenty of fish, the chances are that other anglers will try to move towards the region. Remember that under no circumstances is it a great idea to congregate in the same spot of ice.
Angling is not exactly an extrovert’s extravaganza. You can expect to be left alone for the most part. However, when you notice someone falls through the ice, many people instinctively run towards the same spot to rescue the person in need.
If one person with a throw rope can do the job, there is no need to run towards the same spot. If the ice has given away nearby, it is thin enough to break under a crowd. It is best to have one person with a throw rope attempt the rescue and use a truck as an anchor.
For some, beer tastes better when angling on ice. Unfortunately, it is not great for the judgment. It is possible to underestimate the risks when you have just a couple of beers.
You should also make sure that if one of the friends decides to drink, at the least, the majority stay sober. The last thing you want is for the ice to break underneath one person and others being too intoxicated to help.
In conclusion, ice fishing safety is all about three major aspects: ice thickness, your safety related to the climate around you, and arriving at the right destination. If you stay on thick ice, avoid straining it, have protective equipment, and are with friends, you can have a safe, fun experience angling.
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