Every winter the ice fishing community experiences tragic fatalities. Common denominators of these needless deaths include fishing too early or late in the season, fishing alone or using motorized transportation on the ice.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, anglers should stay off ice less than four inches thick. Ice thickness is affected by the temperature, snow cover, currents and springs. Thickness is not uniform, so check the ice frequently as you venture out.
Most accidents can be prevented with a little common sense and some basic safety equipment.
If you’re looking for a cold-weather suit for ice fishing, why not consider the IceArmor Ascent Float Parka and Float Bib? It is waterproof and windproof with the added feature of a breathable flotation assist that aids buoyancy. It is important to note that this outerwear is NOT approved by the Coast Guard as a personal flotation device or life preserver.
Wear a life vest – at least until you test and verify ice thickness. Should you fall through the ice, it can keep you floating until help arrives.
Ice Chisels (also known as spud bars)
An ice chisel is a versatile tool. It can cut a hole in the ice to fish through (ask your ice fishing dads about that), be used as a walking stick to help prevent falls on the ice or a tool to test ice thickness. The Eskimo Economy Redneck Chisel has sufficient length, weight, and strength for just such purposes.
Imagine you’ve fallen through the ice. The shock of the cold water takes your breath away and panic ensues. You cannot grip the wet and slippery ice to pull yourself out of the water. Wake up from this nightmare and spend a few dollars for a set of Frabill Ice Picks. They are designed to be worn, not stashed in a pocket. The 72-inch stretchable cord connects the two retractable hand-held spikes. The spikes are covered by a durable guard and are only activated by downward pressure.
This is a common sense piece of safety equipment that is handy all year, especially for ice fishing. The Clam Emergency Throw Rope differs from just carrying a length of rope in many ways. The throw rope is a highly visible orange color that stows in a protective bag. Deployment instructions are printed on the outside of this bag. It’s much easier to throw this rope to a target accurately.
The Frabill Safety Kit includes Safety Picks, one pair of XL Ice Creepers (boot size 10 and larger) and a whistle with safety cord. This makes a great gift.
Ice Creepers, or Ice Cleats, are probably the most overlooked piece of safety equipment for ice fishermen. Falls on the ice aren’t as dramatic as falls through the ice, and rarely make the news. Hips, elbows, and skulls are quite vulnerable to a sudden slip and fall on the ice. I won’t go on the ice without them. I have found the K & E Tackle Boot Chizels to provide excellent traction and the easiest to take on and off. They fit any size boot.
By not preparing for falls through the ice, you not only endanger yourself, but those who will try to rescue you. Give yourself, and those who care about you, peace of mind by acquiring basic ice fishing safety equipment.