Few winter sports are more relaxing than a calm day of ice fishing. If you're one to venture out onto frozen lakes and reel in a delicious meal from below, it's important that you know some ice fishing safety tips first.
Here are a few pointers every ice fisherman should keep in mind, whether it's your first or fiftieth winter spent on the lake:
1. Get local input
If you're like many ice fishermen who travel out of their hometowns to find the perfect lake to drop a line in, you may not be familiar with the area. Sure, you can review a map to find out where the lakes, creeks and ponds are, but only a local will know which ones are best, safest and most bountiful. Stop in at the local bait shop and ask for advice - chances are, the person behind the counter will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.
2. Inspect the ice
Before trekking out to the middle of the lake, it's important that you know the quality of the ice. First, get an understanding of what that body of water looks like during the summer or spring; is it a gushing river that flows quickly? Ice formed over fast-moving water typically isn't the strongest - you may want to stand ashore or seek elsewhere.
Next, determine how thick the ice is. If it's fewer than 2 inches, you'd best stay on solid ground. Once it's 4 inches thick, you can safely walk out to your fishing spot, but don't bring too much gear with you, and certainly don't drive a vehicle on this ice. Ice that's 8 inches or more can support an average car, and a truck will typically be safe on a foot of ice or more.
Finally, take a look at the color of the ice. Is it opaque white? That means it was formed by packed snow piled on top of the water, and it's may not be as strong. There's no way to tell how solid the ice was that formed below the snow. The strongest ice is clear blue - this means it formed when the temperature was consistently -8 degrees Celsius or colder for 3 or more weeks, according to Outdoor Canada.
3. Fish with friends
For the most part, ice fishing is a safe sport. But that doesn't change the fact that right below that blanket of solid water lies an ice-cold lake. Should the ice begin to crack, your safety is put at risk. Always ice fish with at least one other person so you can help each other out of dangerous situations.
4. Bring spikes
Bringing a buddy with you to the lake to fish is one way to stay safe while you ice fish, but it's important you have the right gear to pull yourself or your friend out of the water in case you fall through. Have spikes within reach to help you get your grip on the ice so you can pull yourself to safety.
5. Dress in layers
It's no secret that the climate atop a frozen body of water is frigid, to say the least. But when you've got an exceptional rig that includes a shelter, a heater and the bright sun shining down, you may be surprised when you start to feel warm! Dressing in layers will allow you shed a few articles of clothing to keep you comfortable.
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