We’ve got some tips that will help you learn how to stay safe while ice fishing.
Winter fishing on frozen lakes can be a great way for outdoor activity enthusiasts to take one of their favorite hobbies into the doldrums of the year’s coldest months, but it can also be a dangerous pursuit. From cracked or broken ice to freezing water, one wrong step in ice fishing can submerge a wintertime angler in the kind of punishingly cold situation that would make anyone consider whether or not fishing on a sheet of frozen water is a good idea.
But just as regular fishing requires anglers to take safety steps – be they lifejackets or thick fishing gloves – ice fishing too has its own group of necessary safeguards. Here are a few of them.
Know the Ice Thickness
Don’t just assume because it’s winter and cold or because the lake near your house has frozen over that it’s safe to go ice fishing. Different bodies of water freeze in different ways, and where one pond may be perfectly safe to walk and fish upon, another could be unexpectedly dangerous. With this idea in mind, always check the ice thickness before you set up camp to fish. The ice should be at least four inches thick for it to be safe for fishing, and ideally more.
Watch for Warning Signs
So how can you tell thick and sturdy ice from thin and slushy ice? Start by just looking at it. Snow on top of the ice can limit what the ice is telling you, so tread carefully in such situations. If the ice is visibly cracked go elsewhere. Other warning signs include water on the surface of the ice (it’s probably melting through, but is slippery in any regard and not the best choice for fishing), bubbles in the ice, and (it probably goes without saying) signs of open water nearby.
Take a Buddy
Most outdoorsmen and women eventually adopt a “Don’t go out alone” mantra, whether for fishing or hunting, but it’s always of paramount importance for ice fishing. When hunting, if you fall from a treestand or hurt yourself in some other way, you at least hopefully have your phone or a whistle or something else you can use to call for help. If you fall through the ice, calling for help isn’t as easy, so make sure someone is nearby who can help you or call for help on your behalf. If you are buddy fishing though, make sure to have a safety line or a flotation device handy. Pulling someone out of a hole in the ice isn’t as easy as it sounds, and can often result in more broken ice and more instances of peril.
Check out one not-so-safe activity to do while ice fishing.
Pack a Kit
A buddy with a flotation device can be the best lifeline for ice fishermen, but you are also going to want to have a safety kit – with an ice pick, extra rope, a whistle, and more – so that you can take care of yourself if needed. Keep the kit close-by at all times so you can reach it in a moment of danger. In addition, it’s never a bad idea to take a leaf out of the fair-weather angler’s book and wear a life jacket at all times.