Ice fishing enthusiasts gearing up for another year on the ice

Jim Bussell, with Cold Snap Outdoors, gives key safety tips regarding ice fishing equipment as well as procedures for the start of the recreation season.

BLACK HILLS, S.D. — With this week’s colder temperatures, Black Hills outdoor enthusiasts find themselves preparing for another season of ice fishing.

As people start to flock to the frozen lakes to drown a few worms under the ice, there’s a couple things they should keep in mind.

“The safety gear is the most important stuff,” said Jim Bussell of Cold Snap Outdoors.

Ice Fishing Safety 17

Ice fishing has been a serious passion for Bussell for the last 10 years, which is why he wants those that love the sport like him to do it safely.

When arriving at your fishing spot, you must have the right equipment. To start, a set of ice picks should be with you at all times while on the ice in case disaster strikes.

Next is checking the thickness of the ice.

“As I move on to the lake, I’m going to continue to work with my spud bar, hitting the ice every few steps, making sure that it doesn’t go through the ice in any less than two strikes,” Bussell said.

The ice must be at least four inches thick to safely walk on, which you can check after you drill your hole by using a ice fishing spoon that has one inch increments on its side.

Bussell says that once the ice reaches eight to ten inches thick, ATV travel or snowmobiles can be used. With ice reaching 16 to 18 inches thick, light vehicles, like pickup trucks can be used on the ice.

You should bring the following safety items with you when ice fishing:

  • Ice picks (which you should use to pull yourself out of the water if you fall through the ice)
  • Rope bag to throw to someone to pull you ashore
  • Ice fishing spoon
  • Ice fishing sled (for equal weight distribution)
  • Change of warm clothes
  • Rod case to help with the organization of your fishing rods
  • Ice cleats
  • Spud bar
  • Ice auger & cover
  • Appropriate cold weather gear

These safety items should be taken along with a float suit.

It’s also a good idea to have a fishing buddy with you when you’re trying to catch those trophy fish.

“It’s really best to not fish by yourself but, you know, I understand that you know, it’s difficult sometimes to find reliable fishing partners or people to go with you because of work commitments or family commitments,” Bussell said. “If you are going to go out by yourself, it’s imperative that you let somebody know where you’re going, what time you plan on getting there, how long you plan on staying, what time you plan on returning and then let that person know what time that you are off the ice.”

Bussell also says that it’s a great idea to make sure you take advantage of your local resources, like the Rooster or Scheels in Rapid City, while also making sure you have the correct equipment.

Helping others safely do what they love.

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