Ice fishing is a sport that requires basic knowledge and research before starting. It’s not rocket science, but it’s a sport that relies on intense weather conditions that have important safety concerns.
Comfortable and safe ice fishing boils down to staying warm and dry. Obviously, learning more about ice and its inherent safety risks and not failing is a crucial part of it.
Here we run through basic safety tips to make sure you are adequately prepared for the ice. We also highlight key clothing items that can withstand the often brutal elements of ice fishing and the unfortunate scenario of falling under the ice.
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Do not fish alone, especially if you are inexperienced and underequipped. Rescuing yourself is very difficult, and having someone else (who is not in shock) lend a hand it can make all the difference. Falling through the ice shouldn’t stop you from ice fishing, but it’s important to be aware of the risk, including with others around you.
Ice fishing: how to
Measurement of ice thickness
Only fish on ice that is at least 4 inches thick. That doesn’t mean you go out and drill it and then measure it.
It means you shouldn’t venture out on the ice at all if it’s less than 4 inches thick. Ice thickness data is available as reported by local wildlife officials who often have a hotline to request a quick beta. Often times, your local bait shop will have this information as well.
Typically, the ice is thinner near the shore, over strong currents, and around rocks or fallen tree trunks in the water. Avoiding these areas is key, but never assume that the center of the lake is automatically thicker.
If you can’t find ice data or want to check the information available for yourself, there are safe ways to do it. Use an auger from the bank to get through the ice. If it is at least 4 inches thick, you can venture further to measure in new places. It is safer to tie the person on the drill with a rope or harness and a buddy 50 yards back as the anchor (and potential retriever).
Types of ice
Some ice is better and stronger than other ice. Clear or blue-green ice should be hard enough to run on. Black or gray ice can melt and its ability to support the weight can be impaired. Likewise, white ice, often due to inconsistent freezing temperatures, can be thick but potentially compromised.
Is that a little too vague? It should seem so because spotting color differences in ice is not a beginner’s skill. It is best to look for established fishing areas with signage and other ice anglers. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from experienced anglers. Learning from someone with more expertise can help you become more confident and secure on the ice yourself.
Ice fishing equipment
Why it matters
Falling through ice isn’t as common as you might think, but preparing for it with the right clothing is a smart preparation. And the right gear can keep you safe (not to mention comfort) off the ice, too, where hypothermia and frostbite remain a risk.
A swimsuit will keep you dry and your head above water. Keeping your head and other layers dry gives you time to calmly break out of the water. This often involves several attempts to find an edge that is thick and sturdy enough to aid pulling out. Without a suit like this, your clothing will hold water and increase resistance to any move you make to save yourself.
Plus, you’ll have less time to react before your body shuts down due to extreme exposure. If you have enough energy and time to pull yourself out with ropes, ice axes, or even your hands, it can make all the difference. These and other ice protection tools and accessories are included available from Rapala.
Ice safety tip and two-part ice chisel for additional safety when ice fishing
Another bonus is that flotation gives you a much better chance of regaining your heat once you’re out of the water. Not only does this prevent you from being fully immersed in the icy water, but the suit continues to insulate and protect from the cold weather conditions, giving you valuable time to get to safety.
What is a flotation suit? There are several types of flotation suits, each with their own style and use. Read on to find out which one is best for you!
StrikeMaster makes three suits and bibs with Stay On Surface (SOS) technology that you can use as a couple to float for 2 hours. That’s enough time for you and a buddy to execute an exit strategy or seek additional help.
The StrikeMaster Surface Jacket and bib Use 120g of padded insulation behind a lined fabric that is waterproof and breathable. The jacket has internal zipped pockets for phones and wallets, and there are fleece-lined handwarmer pockets on the outside. Other key specs include the magnetic flap to cover the main zip, a detachable hood, and D-rings on the charging pockets to keep tools and accessories within easy reach.
For colder temperatures and adjustability when warming up, there is the StrikeMaster Pro jacket and bib. The 3-in-1 jacket consists of a puff insulation jacket with zip, a main jacket with 140 g 3M insulation and a water-repellent and breathable outer material made of ripstop polyester for additional protection against tears. Otherwise, it has the same hood, zip and pocket functions as the Surface model.
The Pro bib They have a waterproof hem, side zippers with magnetically closed flaps, 5 mm EVA foam knee pads and an adjustable inner seam for better leg lengths.
The StrikeMaster Allie jacket and bib Take the pro suit technology and shape it into a suit that is tailored to their needs based on feedback from women. Named after one of its designers, the brand explains: “Every Allie suit comes with an inner lining inspired by Allie, a mother, cancer survivor and ice angler.”
Similar to the Pro, the Allie suit has a 3-in-1 jacket with a pull-out puff layer and 100 g of 3M insulation. The outer jacket and bibs contain 140 g of the same. Both the jacket and the bib have fleece-lined handwarmer pockets and D-rings for locking accessories.
The Allie Bibs also have layers of foam knee pads, zip-off tops for other winter activities, and internal leg gaiters for added protection.
It doesn’t stop there. StrikeMaster knows the importance of educating the next generation of ice anglers, and that’s how the brand created a couple Youth Surface Bibs and a Youth jacket. Both incorporate the same SOS technology as the adult offerings, so fishing is hassle-free once you know you and your loved ones are safe.
Warm, safe, fun
If you are new to the sport, try to find an experienced ice angler. They can provide some good general advice and help you with the latest fishing tips.
You can always ask your local store about nearby ice fishing spots and look for items that you may be missing. This can range from the device to the necessary equipment.
A little preparation can go a long way in making your first ice fishing experience more comfortable, safer, and more fun.
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This item is sponsored by StrikeMaster, a Rapala brand. Learn more about fishing equipment Here.