4 Ice Fishing Safety Tips
The first snow has fallen and the nightly temperatures have dipped below freezing, and Utah’s Ice Fishing Season is just around the corner. If you’re anything like me the anticipation of the first fishable ice starts in late November. This is the time to dust off the ice fishing gear, sharpen the auger blades, and wait for the opportunity to fish the first ice.
The fishing during first ice and ice off can be very productive, but this is also two of the most dangerous times for ice fishing anglers. Each year we read stories about anglers who have taken the icy plunge. In most cases the angler survives, and in some tragic cases, loss of life is reported.
So, in this article I want to share 4 Ice Fishing safety tips that may help keep you safe this ice fishing season. However, before I get to the tips I want to talk about 3 essential ice fishing safety tools that every angler should have before they venture out on the ice.
Ice Safety Picks:
Ice Safety Picks are designed to wear around your neck for quick, easy access should you fall through the ice. Ice fishing ice picks are used to dig into the ice to help pull you from the freezing water. This very inexpensive tool can really make the difference between getting out of the water quickly or struggling and having to wait for help.
Emergency Throw Rope:
An emergency throw rope is another ice fishing safety gear essential. A good rope can be used to rescue you, or to rescue someone in need. The rope can be any durable rope, or what I like to have in my safety gear is a rescue throw bag. A throw bag keeps your rope tangle free and the bag itself acts as a weight for long distance throws. You can browse a large selection of throw bags on Amazon.
Okay, ice cleats will not help you if you’ve fallen through the ice; however, they will help you from taking a nasty fall that may cause injuries. Ice Cleats are great to have when attempting to walk on the brand new clear ice that has yet to be coated with a fresh blanket of snow. Clear wet ice even with a good pair of boots can be very difficult to navigate, and falling on ice is just like falling on concrete. You can purchase a pair of good ice cleats for around ten dollars.
4 Ice Fishing Safety Tips:
1 – Always check the thickness of the ice, especially early and late in the season. My personal preference on ice thickness is at least 4” inches. The photo to right are rough guidelines for ice thickness safety.
2 – Research the lake or reservoir you plan to ice fish. Many lakes and reservoirs have different features that may affect ice thickness and safety. For example Utah Lake has many hot springs, and Mantua Reservoir has many random springs bubbling up from the bottom causing locations where ice doesn’t form. Also remember that any moving water will also affect ice thickness. So always use caution around inlets and outlets.
3 – It’s not uncommon for reservoirs to fill during the ice fishing season. This will cause open water around the shore line. Also late in the season when the ice starts to deteriorate it generally pulls back from the shore first. Always use caution when getting on and off the ice. If you use a plank to cross the open water around the edges keep in mind there is always a chance this open water may widen later in the day. Last year 3 gentlemen found themselves in this exact situation. The ice pulled away from shore, which left a 10 to 15 foot section of open water. They took a very, very cold swim to get off the ice and back to shore. Luckily, all 3 anglers made it back okay.
4 – The final and last ice fishing safety tip is always fish with a buddy. Being alone puts you at a disadvantage if something should go wrong. Now if you must ice fish alone, be sure to go where other anglers are on the lake or reservoir. This way help is near if needed. Most anglers look out for one another and if someone is in trouble or needing help most will jump into action immediately, which is super cool.
There you have it, 4 ice fishing safety tips and a review of 3 ice fishing safety tools. Ice fishing is one of the best times of year to fish in our opinion. With the right gear, the right tools, and some respect for the ice, fishing during this time of year is a fun exciting outdoor adventure the whole family can enjoy. I hope you enjoy this season. Be safe, have fun, and I hope to see you on the ice!