While ice fishing is a relatively safe and popular sport, there is still risk involved. You are sitting on a slab of ice that is covering bitter cold water, this could be a recipe for disaster unless you are well informed and properly prepared. Follow these simple tips for ice safety and you will have a great time knowing that you are safe.
Check the ice thickness. Now this doesn't mean you check in one area and assume all is well. The thickness of the ice will vary around the lake, so check in several spots. Remember the old adage, 'thick and blue, tried and true. Thin and crispy, way too risky!'. You want ice that is a minimum of six inches thick for walking on, ten inches if you want to drive on it. However, you should always test the ice by walking on it first, before you ever drive a vehicle on it. The best way to test the thickness is to slowly walk out on the ice, probing it in front of you with a pole or ice chisel as you go. If your probe breaks through the ice, carefully turn back and move away from that area.
Dress in layers. There are several reasons for this. One, you can take off or put on layers as the day warms up or cools down. For safety, if you fall in the water layers will allow you to take some off so you can maneuver in the water better. You need to be prepared for falling in the water. It doesn't happen often but it does happen. Avoid wearing waders because these can fill with water and weigh you down if you fall in. The best choice for boots is waterproof lace up boots that come to mid-calf. They will keep your feet dry and warm, but won't hinder you if you fall in.
Grab a buddy and fish in pairs. It is good to have someone with you for safety reasons and just for the company. If you were to have a problem, whether it is falling in the water or a health scare, it is nice to have someone with you who can help. Make sure your fishing partner is aware of any health issues you might have and that they know emergency numbers for family members if necessary.
The most important thing for ice fishing safety is to stay sober. Although it may seem fun to grab a beer and enjoy fishing with your buddies, alcohol and ice don't mix. For one thing, alcohol tends to lower your body temperature so you won't be aware of the chilling effects of the wind and cold until it is too late. You could end up with frostbite if you drink and ice fish. Alcohol also reduces your reaction time so you are in more danger if the ice begins to crack.
Ice fishing is a fun sport and a great way to spend a day with friends and family. Just make sure you take a few precautions to stay safe.