Ice Fishing Safety | Shelter Insurance®

Ice Fishing Safety Tips

Image: Man ice fishing on a sunny day.

While many people prefer to stay curled up inside by a fire with a cup of hot cocoa during the winter, there are also those who look forward to braving the cold for outdoor activities like skiing, hunting, snowmobiling or ice fishing. Why ice fishing? Some say it’s to embrace what Mother Nature has thrown their way rather than complaining about it. Others think it’s a good opportunity to catch fish because it’s harder for them to find food in the winter when the lake is frozen over. In any case, ice fishing can be dangerous—and not just from falling through ice that’s too thin. A fall on the ice can result in broken bones and concussions. Ice anglers—read up! We’re going to go over some important safety tips before you hit the ice.

Ice Thickness
Proper ice thickness is key to supporting your weight and the weight of any vehicles you take to get to your favorite spot on the lake. If you’re not driving to the spot you choose to fish from, the ice should be at least 4” thick. Never drive a car on the ice unless you know it’s 8-12” thick, and 12-15” thick if you’re driving a truck. If there’s snow on top of the ice, avoid it. Believe it or not, snow can keep ice from staying frozen, so the ice might not be as strong as you think.  It can’t hurt to ask local fishermen about known thin spots on the ice, but you can check the thickness of the ice yourself with an ice chisel, an auger or a cordless drill with a long bit.

Dress Appropriately
We’re not talking about the latest fashion trend here. When ice fishing, you should dress in layers. This gives you the flexibility to remove layers if you start to get too warm, yet still protects you from getting too cold. You’ll also want to wear heavy socks made for cold temperatures and insulated, cold-weather boots. Fleece-lined neoprene gloves will keep your hands warm while also protecting them from cold water—essential if you find yourself really reeling them in! Finally, you need to wear a warm stocking cap. Most of your body’s heat is lost through your head, and a stocking cap can prevent that and protect your ears at the same time.

A few other tips for safety sake:

  • Don’t fish alone! It will be more fun to bring a friend, and if one of you falls and can’t walk to go get help, or if one of you falls through the ice, the other can help.
  • Keep a couple of ice picks in your pocket to help pull yourself out of the water if you fall in.
  • Bring a rope to help get out if you fall through thinner-than-expected ice. It’s easier to pull someone out of water with a rope.
  • Let someone on shore know where you will be.
  • Don’t make fishing holes in the ice too close together. The ice will lose stability.
  • It might be tempting to have a few beers or even something stronger to stay warm, but it can delay reaction time if you fall through the ice, and it can make you more susceptible to hypothermia.

These tips aren’t meant to put a damper on your fun. Injuries and accidents can though. We hope these tips are helpful and you catch your limit!

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