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Thirteen ice fishing safety tips you need to know

Posted by Scott Stueber, CPCU, CISR, AAI on Jan 23, 2018 11:06:23 AM


During the winter months, frozen lakes host a flurry of outdoor activities. Anglers, ice shanties, and recreational vehicles are familiar scenes.

While many enjoy winter activities on the ice, these activities can lead to serious injury if the proper precautions aren’t taken.

Before you head out on the ice this winter, check out these safety tips.

1. Share your fishing plans.

Sharing your plans with your family, friends, or neighbors is a good idea. Let them know:

  • The name of the lake you’ll be fishing on;
  • The location of your fishing hot spot (i.e., north shore, south shore, etc.) and
  • When you plan to arrive home.

If the fish are actively biting and you decide to stay out longer, notify them of your change in plans.

2. Bring a friend.

When going ice fishing, always go with others. A friend can:

  • Provide an extra set of hands.

  • Help you stay focused on safety. 

  • Alert authorities if something goes wrong.

3. Talk to the locals.

They can provide information on ice thickness, water movement, and other information pertinent to the lake.

4. Follow these ice thickness guidelines.

Remember, ice is never 100% safe. Ice thickness can change very quickly.

2" or less - STAY OFF!
4" - Ice fishing or other activities on foot.
5" - Snowmobile or ATV.
8" - 12" - Car or small pickup.
12" - 15" - Medium truck.

5. Purchase a flotation suit.

A flotation suit is the most important item you can buy. If you fall through the ice, a flotation suit will keep you warm and make it easier to escape the frigid water.

6. Carry a pair of ice picks/rescue claws.

Keep a quality pair of ice picks with you at all times. If you fall through the ice, ice picks make it possible to climb out. Don’t skimp on this life-saving device.

7. Carry a throw rope.

A throw rope can be used to pull a fellow angler to safety.

8. Leave the lake before dark.

Navigation at night can be treacherous. Without familiar visuals or a navigation device, you can become disorientated, making it difficult to find your way off the ice.

9. Install proper ventilation.

If your ice shanty is heated, make sure you have good ventilation. A poorly ventilated one can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

10. Bring a portable power bank battery charger.

Cold temperatures can quickly drain your smartphone battery. A quality charger can save the day. I recommend buying a high-capacity charger. While they’re a bit more expensive, they can provide multiple charges and charge numerous phones simultaneously. To avoid permanent damage, turn your phone off in frigid temperatures.

11. Respect the ice auger.

Ice augers are built to drill holes quickly and efficiently. Before operating it for the first time, read the owner’s manual. In addition, avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry. When you finish the auger, store it in a safe place. Lastly, always maintain sharp blades to prevent injury while drilling.

12. Stay hydrated.

Staying hydrated is very important. Dehydration can happen quickly in cold weather because your body works hard to keep warm. Check out “8 Tips for Hydrating in Cold Weather.”

13. Layer up.

Selecting the correct number of layers is essential. Beginners to winter activities tend to underdress, especially on a sunny day. Choosing the correct number of layers, based on temperature, can only be accomplished through trial and error. Before venturing out on the ice practice at home.

Check out our blog, “Will your vehicle sink or swim if it falls through the ice?” This blog discusses how insurance will respond if your vehicle breaks through the ice.

Lastly, remember the sunscreen. Use an SPF of 30 or higher and apply it to exposed skin. Reapply every few hours. You CAN get sunburn during winter months, especially on sunny days.

Do you have any suggestions or information you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you. Please share them in the box below.

Topics: Weather

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