A little safety goes a long way in ice fishing

Here are 8 ways to make sure you are not putting your safety on the line.

Checking Ice DepthRAPID CITY, S.D. — Ice fishing can make for a great day in nature, but it must be done safely to be a success. Here are some tips from Jim Bussell, a pro staffer with Cold Snap Outdoors, on how to have a safe day on the lake.

Make sure you have safe ice.

I have my spud bar…it’s got a chisel end on it. And when I step onto the ice, I’m going to hit the ice,” Bussel explains. “If the bar breaks through in two hits or less, then I know it’s not thick enough for me to proceed. We’ll do that every time we get on the ice during early ice, every time we get on the ice during late ice, every time we get on a new body of water during the middle of the season, it doesn’t matter if there’s a foot and a half of ice and there are vehicles driving on it- we’re going to take the spud on it.”

Have ice picks on your person.

“Every ice fishing trip begins and ends with the spikes that you see hanging around my neck,” Bussell adds. “This float suit that I’m wearing provides great buoyancy if I were to fall into the water, but it’s just going to keep me afloat. It’s not going to help me get out of the water. So these ice picks is where it all begins.”

Wear ice cleats.

Ice is slippery. After all, it’s ice, even if there’s some snow on top, as Bussell explains.

“Slips, trips and falls are something that we want to avoid, we want to avoid getting hurt while we’re out here, and so we’re going to have good ice cleats on to give us some traction.”

Check the thickness as you go.

“We’ve got several holes out there. We’ll drill, we’ll check the thickness. We’ll drill, we’ll check the thickness. And the reason for that is every body of water is different,” Bussell says. “The dynamics are different. You have water clarity, which plays a part in ice thickness. You have current, you have underwater springs. You have spots that get a lot of sun and spots that don’t get much sun and those all conspire together to make ice somewhat inconsistent in a lot of places.”

Watch for changes in the ice.

They can indicate weaker areas or just spots that might cause a trip.

“We’re going to watch for pressure ridges and things like that. A pressure ridge can be heaved up, it can be sunken underneath. So we’ll keep an eye out for those things,” adds Bussell. 

Take ropes and a throw bag on the ice with you.

If one of us were to go into the water, somebody could throw that throw bag to the person in the water and help pull them out,” Bussell explains.

Take a change of clothes.

If you do happen to fall in, you’ll want to get dry quickly, but Bussell says not to take these on the ice with you!

“In the vehicle, we’ve got dry bags with dry clothes so that if we do get wet and we’re able to switch out.”

Let a friend or family member know where you are going.

Bussell says that communication is a key part of safety.

“We’ve got a plan, we’ve talked about what we’re going to do. We let people know where we’re going to be, how long we plan to be here, when we plan to leave, we’re going to communicate.”

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