DRIFTWOOD OUTDOORS: Understanding the safety critical for ice fishing
I have to admit, staring down into an 8-inch wide hole cut in the ice for hours on end isn’t the most exciting outdoor experience out there for me, but ice fishing can be a lot of fun and a productive way to put fish in the freezer during the winter months.
When I was a kid, around 10 years old, I fell through the ice on a local lake while playing hockey. I’ll never forget the feeling of the ice breaking apart and dropping into the water. Thankfully it was only a couple feet deep and I found my footing right away and was able to crawl out. Too many others end up losing their lives.
The organization, Take Me Fishing has provided a list of ice fishing safety. It covers an understanding of ice and helps to inform anyone who may venture on ice what to be aware of.
· New ice is usually stronger than old ice. Four inches of clear, newly formed ice may support one person on foot, while a foot or more of old, partially thawed ice may not.
· Ice seldom freezes uniformly. It may be a foot thick in one location and only an inch or two just a few feet away.
· Ice formed over flowing water and currents is often dangerous. This is especially true near streams, bridges and culverts. Also, the ice outside river bends is usually weaker due to the undermining effects of the faster current.
· The insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process. The extra weight also reduces how much weight the ice sheet can support. Also, ice near shore can be weaker than ice that is farther out.
· Booming and cracking ice isn't necessarily dangerous. It only means that the ice is expanding and contracting as the temperature changes.
· Schools of fish or flocks of waterfowl can also adversely affect the relative safety of ice. The movement of fish can bring warm water up from the bottom of the lake. In the past, this has opened holes in the ice causing snowmobiles and cars to break through.
Safety is so important ice fishing. Knowing and believing in these tips is so important for your safety. You should also never ice fish alone. Having the assistance of another to pull you to safety if you were to break through is essential. Wear a lifejacket and carry ice picks or screwdriver in your pocket. The life jacket will keep you a float, and the ice pick will allow you to grip the ice and pull yourself out.
Once you understand the seriousness of ice safety and prepare yourself for the worst case scenario, you shouldn’t feel scared to ice fish. Knowing how to be safe and how to react if something goes bad, opens up the opportunity to spend days outdoors during the winter months.
Another big perk of ice fishing is the quality of the fish filets you collect from cold water. The equipment and techniques needed to catch fish are pretty basic.
Special ice fishing poles, which are much shorter than normal fishing poles, are beneficial in tight quarters, such as inside a shanty, but regular fishing poles will work if you don’t feel it necessary to invest in special ice fishing gear. Shanties are ice fishing shelters used to keep anglers out of the elements. They can be made of fabric, like a heavy tent, wood or plastic. You can buy commercially produced shanties, or you can make your own. They’re nice for staying warm, but limit scenery and natural exposure.
See you down the trail…
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