- Talk to locals, bait shops, learn where the usual unsafe ice is located
- Four inches of ice, minimum, for people and gear…not an ATV
- Simple Common Sense will usually prevent ice-fishing accidents
By Jason Houser
Ice fishing is supposed to be a good time during the winter months while we wait for the first signs of the thaw to arrive. However, every year ice fishermen fall victim to thin ice and the danger of falling through, then not knowing measures to take if that worst-case scenario happens.
There are precautions an outdoorsman can take to prevent falling through weak ice. Unfortunately, no matter how careful we are on the ice, there is always the risk of getting wet in these sub-freezing waters that can quickly take one’s life, especially if they do not know what to do in case of that unintended emergency. This article is intended to help prevent accidents and what to do should one occur.
One of the biggest reasons for people going through the ice is that they get on hard water that is not thick enough to support them and their equipment. Four inches of clear ice is the bare minimum for a person to safely walk on. An ATV or snowmobile will take at least five inches of ice, and a vehicle will require eight inches, with twelve being better. A lot of things can factor into whether ice is safe or not, and these are only guidelines. Early and late in the season is often the most dangerous times to be on ice.
Each body of water has its known danger areas. If you are going to be on winter water that you are not familiar with, check with locals who know where the problem ice might be. They can provide a lot of valuable information.
Even though I stated what the thickness of ice should be when driving on it, try not to drive a highway vehicle on it if possible. If you must take a drive, keep the windows rolled down and your seat belt off. Remember that a car or truck can be replaced, so do not hesitate to leave it in a hurry if things go awry.
Safety should be first and foremost with fishermen. Do not venture onto the ice unless it is at least 4 to 6 inches thick. This is the minimum thickness that will safely support a person and their gear. Keep in mind that snow weakens the stability of the ice. Do not test just one area of the ice and assume that it will be the same depth at all areas of the lake, reservoir or pond – it might not be.
Ice fishing accidents can quickly become deadly. Do not ice fish alone. Always have someone with you and let people back at the house know where you will be and when you expect to return. That way, if you do not return on time, they know exactly where to go and look for you.
Also, frostbite and hypothermia are concerns that ice fishermen must be aware of. You must be alert as to the amount of time you are on the ice and the weather conditions while you are fishing. Do not get overwhelmed with all the excitement and stay out too long.
Below are five more ice fishing safety recommendations:
- Wear a warm hat that covers your ears. In cold weather, 75 to 80 percent of heat loss from the body occurs from an uncovered head.
- Go with a partner and stay separated when going to and from fishing spots in case one of you falls through the ice.
- Carry a rope to throw if someone falls through the ice, go out to that person only as a last resort.
- Test the ice ahead of you with an ice spud bar or an auger.
- Do not leave children unsupervised.
Ice fishing is meant to be an enjoyable time in the outdoors. Practice safety on the ice…always. The advice in this article will prevent many accidents from occurring, but the best danger prevention is simply common sense.
If something doesn’t look safe, stay away.
There will be plenty of opportunities to step out on the ice.