Chances are pretty good that if you’ve started to read this blog post, you’re one of the many sportsmen or sportswomen who love being outdoors year-round… even if the winter elements mean that more preparation time is involved. While you may already be familiar with the basics of ice fishing safety, there are a few additional cold weather tips that can be applied when making a trip out to the shanty or ice fishing hole.
Keep in mind that the following tips are only suggestions since ice fishing safety depends on a number of environmental and situational factors.
- Always bring along a fishing buddy. Not only is it more fun to share the thrill of a catch with a friend, it also makes good sense from a safety standpoint. In the event that you were to fall through the ice, there is someone there to call 911 for help and find a strong tree limb, ladder or rope that might be used to help pull you out of the water.
- Keep an eye out for weed beds, underground springs, inlet or outlet streams, areas of current, schools of fish or flocks of birds. Each of these factors can cause weak spots in the ice. Always pay close attention to your surroundings.
- Test, test, test. Test the ice thickness with a chisel or auger before you walk on it. While it is said that ice should be 4 inches thick in order to support an angler, ice rarely freezes to create consistent thickness across a lake or body of water.
- Avoid fishing lakes or areas that you aren’t familiar with or be sure to bring along someone who does know the waters where you will be ice fishing.
- Even if you do know an area well or are bringing along a fishing buddy that knows the area, it’s a good idea to stop and ask about current ice conditions at one of the local bait and tackle shops. Use local resources and get safety updates from people who live or work near the area on a daily basis.
- Monitor the temperature and wind for several days in advance of a trip. Staying aware of temperature changes and wind changes is important. Just because it hasn’t quite warmed up to the point where the ice is starting to melt, it can still weaken the ice considerably. Wind gusts can also create broken or uneven ice.
The bottom line? As with any type of angling activity, practice good judgment. After all, what good would it serve to catch a trophy through the ice or hook a record number of fish if you don’t make it home safely to tell the tale?
Photo Credits: Ray Welle and Jason Hertendy