Hey folks! With winter upon us, and everyone eager to get out on the ice to pull the fish of a lifetime through the ice – one thing we must remember is Safety on the ice!
Ice fishing is a wonderful and relaxing form of fishing, that is suitable for people of all skill levels and ages – it is a highly favored winter activity among families across our beautiful country.
To ensure that everyone has a FUN and SAFE ice fishing season this winter, I'd like to just quickly go over a few things, and offer some information on products that can (and should) be used to ensure that you develop a season of memories and good times with family/friends.
Again, these are only rough guidelines!... If something feels 'off' or unsafe; it probably is.
It is also recommended that you check ice thickness every 150ft... but before you go ahead and drill holes, I'd like to make a list of some equipment you should always be using from the moment you step onto the ice.
Safety Equipment #1:
Many different companies make ice safety studs, and they can range anywhere from $10-$100 (depending on design/materials used). Have you ever gone to walk out your front door without tossing some salt down, during the first cold snap of the year? I have (multiple times), and though it seems impressive to have your legs kick higher than Bruce Lee – it usually ends with you whacking your head or one of your limbs off of the ice/ground pretty hard. Not a good time... which is why I always recommend a pair of ice Safety Studs.
Most ice safety studs are just a simple slip-on design, that you place on the bottom of your boots – providing you with some extra grip on the ice. Not only does this provide extra grip for safety reasons, it will also make walking longer distances on the ice (not all of us have sleds or are able to drive our vehicles onto the ice), less taxing and exhausting on the body.
Safety Equipment #2:
Ice picks are another cheap, but very important/effective piece of equipment to always have with you on the ice. Imagine trying to climb up a 6ft ledge that is covered in vegetable oil and dish soap - doesn’t seem to easy, does it? Well, that is the equivalent of what it would be like trying to climb back on top of the ice after falling through it (plus the additional shock from freezing cold temps/hypothermia... not a good time).
Ice picks make it able for anglers/individuals to climb out of the ice, in the event that they fall through it. They puncture the ice, providing the individual with a 'post' or 'peg' to use as leverage to pull themselves out of the water. Ice picks are a designed to be 'worn' at all times and are compact enough for most anglers to not even notice them – they are on a 'string' system that is worn over the shoulders/back of the anglers' neck, and hang out the bottom of the sleeve of your jacket (exactly like the style of mittens toddlers/young children wear).
For those that have neither of the first two pieces of safety equipment, Frabill actually makes a very nice cost-efficient safety kit, which includes Ice Safety Studs, Ice Safety Picks, and a whistle. This is a great 'all in one' safety kit that I highly recommend.
Safety Equipment #3:
Ice Safety Spud Bar
An ice safety Spud Bar is the piece of equipment that will help save you from ever falling through the ice – think of it as the 'minesweeper' for finding thin/bad ice.
A Spud Bar is simply that – it is a big heavy bar with a spike/sharp edge on the end of it. To use one of these it is very simple. Basically, you will use the Spud Bar as a walking stick – hacking at the ice with each couple of steps you take. Listen very closely for cracks/crunches in the ice, and closely look for signs (such as pressure cracks, water, heavy amounts of snow or complete lack of snow), and be sure to check those areas thoroughly with your Safety Spud Bar. If your Spud bar goes through the ice on one or two swings – that area is off limits!
Ice fishing can be a very fun activity, and is much safer than most winter activities as long as you do take the time to ensure that you have the proper safety equipment and follow safety precautions! In addition to the equipment listed above, I always recommend wearing a life jacket or a full body flotation device (if you have the funds/access to one) - at a bare minimum it will act as another insulator to keep you warm while on the ice.
I hope everyone has a SAFE and FUN ice fishing season! If any of our readers have any questions on ice fishing or ice fishing safety, please don't hesitate to pop-by the shop or give us a shout – we'd be more than happy to help.
Stay safe, and tight lines!