It’s that time of year again. The leaves have fallen, the ground is frosted, the wind is chilling… winter is coming. Ice Fishing was what sparked my desire to take up fishing as a serious hobby. But with fun, there are safety precautions that should be addressed. Before venturing out for the first time this season, consider adding these items to your pack to help ensure a safe and successful trip out.
- Ice Reports
You should always check your local Ice Reports or check with the Operators. In most cases if the local operators aren’t out yet, it’s not safe to be out. There are areas that may not have reports, so as a rule of thumb, follow this guide.
2” of ice or less STAY OFF!
4” of ice “Safe” for fishing,
5-7” of ice “Safe” for Snowmobiles & ATV
8-12” of ice “Safe” for Cars/Small Trucks
12”+ of ice “Safe” for Medium Trucks
Remember, these are merely guidelines. There is no such thing as “Safe Ice”. Always take any ice reports as a guide of caution, not as a guarantee, and use caution when venturing out.
2. Spud Bar
A spud bar is generally a long hard pole with a type of chisel/blade on the end. It’s a great tool for checking the strength of the ice while making your way out. A solid spud bar can generally break through a few inches of ice in a couple strong strikes. Testing that the ice is thick enough is a good way to ensure your ability to move forward. Take your time while walking out and test the ice every couple steps. If the spud bar goes through the ice, it’s time to turn around.
3. Ice Picks and Rope
Ice Picks are an inexpensive tool that can save your life if you fall through the ice. Most have a long string and you wear them through your sleeves for easy access. If you do happen to fall through, they will help give you some grip on the ice to pull yourself up. Always remember to exit the hole in the same direction you enter, use the picks to pull with your arms and kick with your legs as if you were swimming. It is also handy to have an extra length of rope available to help pull out a fallen angler.
While this is technically 2 items, it should be in any outdoor lover’s pack. Many of us take for granted some of the simple items that keep us safe. While most phones have GPS and Compass Apps, a reliable signal is not always available. It’s not uncommon to be out on a nice day, and have the weather change out of nowhere. A thick fog can make navigating back to shore quite difficult, and with bad weather can come bad mobile reception. Having a standalone compass is a way to avoid heading in the wrong direction.
A whistle is a great tool to help initiate an SOS or call for help. Whether you’ve lost your direction, or fallen through the ice, an audible alert is a great way for rescuers to locate your whereabouts. Keep one close by for easy access.
5. Float/Survival Suit
A Float suit/Survival suit can be a life saver on the ice. They come in a variety of styles from one piece to two-piece, thermal, non-thermal, auto inflatable, light duty, heavy duty, etc. While they can get a bit pricey, you can never put a price on safety.
Before you venture onto the ice this season, get yourself prepared and have the proper safety measures taken care of, and enjoy the greatest season of them all…. Hardwater season!
Now that you have the safety it's time to get some fish! Check out 5 Ice Fishing Tips for Walleye. These tips are sure to keep your rod bent.