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Safety First

The rest of the “frozen chosen” and I are still looking forward to some ice fishing, but the up and down temperatures are delaying our ventures out onto local lakes. I still hope to get on the ice in the next two or three weeks, but you can bet that safety concerns come first. Certainly,

The rest of the “frozen chosen” and I are still looking forward to some ice fishing, but the up and down temperatures are delaying our ventures out onto local lakes. I still hope to get on the ice in the next two or three weeks, but you can bet that safety concerns come first.

Certainly, there are some dangers involved in ice fishing, but then again, one of the greatest dangers of a trip to the lake may well be the drive to and from the lake. Even driving to and from work involves a certain amount of risk. This becomes especially evident when the majority of drivers seem to think that the posted speed limit is merely a “suggested speed limit,” and they are free to do whatever speed they choose. Throw in some texting while driving and some “driving under the influence of something,” and I begin to feel safer on my favorite ice-fishing lake.

So much for highway safety, but what about ice safety? First, if you are new to the activity, I would highly recommend that you go with someone who is experienced and exercises good judgment. Be especially aware of the “good judgment” part since not all veteran ice fishermen always exercise good judgment. As an avid ice fisherman, I like to pay close attention to weather patterns, and I try to “watch” the ice forming on lakes. In other words, I’m always watching and checking to see my favorite lakes in the freezing process. If I can’t see a lake for myself, I try to check with ice-fishing buddies who are keeping an eye on lakes nearby.

Generally speaking, most ice fishermen are comfortable going out on a minimum of four inches of hard, clear ice; with seven-plus inches of ice, we are comfortable fishing close together in small groups. Be aware, however, that ice is not always uniform over its entire surface. Most lake surfaces freeze at different rates in different locations, and for a variety of reasons-wind, current, springs, and even wildlife like ducks swimming in an area can keep a spot from freezing as quickly as other parts of a lake. By the way, don’t assume that because there are fishermen on the other side of the lake, you can take any route to get to the same spot. There may be serious, unknown hazards on your chosen route, so you may want to follow known travel routes.

For added safety, most of my ice fishing buddies and I also wear suits made up of bib overalls and coats that are for winter’s cold temperatures, but more importantly, they are made to keep a person afloat if they go through the ice. You get wet and cold, but you stay afloat and can be pulled to safety. If you don’t have such a suit, you may want to wear a life vest of some type. It’s also recommended that each ice fisherman carry a pair of ice picks. The picks can be worn around the neck and, if needed, can be pulled apart, exposing a spike that can quickly be thrust into the ice should you go through, making it possible to pull yourself out.

Another item I highly recommend is a pair of ice cleats. Surely there are times that the cleats will not be needed as when heavy snow covers the ice, but on slick, hard, clear ice, you definitely want cleats. I once saw a friend slip on the way to check a tip-up, and he came down hard on the back of his head; he forgot to put his ice cleats on.

Aside from these tips, it’s also important that you dress warmly, but that’s another whole article. In the meantime, if we get ice, you will see me and my buddies out on the lake-we’re the little black dots staring at a hole in the ice and having a great time.

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