For Ice Fishermen, Safety is Survival

Now that we are in the middle of Winter, people who are venturing outdoors must be wary of a whole set of safety precautions. Whether it be skiers, hikers, or ice fishermen, safety during the winter is something that should never be overlooked. For ice fishermen especially, attention to safety can mean the difference between a relaxing day on the water and a near death experience.

Be Wary of Fluctuating Temperatures

Ice fishing has long been an a hobby and survival skill built into one. For those in the Northern parts of the middle of the United States, spending long winter days out on the ice is basically a way of life. This winter, however, things have not been so straightforward thanks to temperatures that have fluctuated consistently. While one week the ice may be more than thick enough for a group of people to venture out onto, the next week may see that same body of water sparsely covered with thin ice.

As you can plainly see, the real challenge most ice fishermen have is determining when the ice is safe and when it isn’t. Randy Finch, self-proclaimed “ice guru”, explained the many different factors affecting the freezing and solidity of ice, especially as it pertains to lake water/ice.

You see, when molecules of water freeze, they form nice, uniform crystals of ice. If the ice is pure, the ice crystals come together to form neatly packed pillars—it is from these pillars that a block of ice derives its strength.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned description is talking about the process of pure water freezing. Because lake water is often filled with air, dirt, and other impurities, the formation of ice and the ice itself is never as uniform and straightforward as described above. Add to this the fact that there is often moving water underneath the ice and constantly changing weather conditions, and you have an often uncertain outlook on whether or not an iced over lake is safe to venture out on to.

You are Responsible for Your Safety

Because of all the factors that can affect the solidness and security of a frozen lake, it is up to the people who are about to venture onto the lake’s surface to ensure that conditions are appropriate to hold whatever the amount of weight may be. By assessing the ice’s thickness, consulting other fishermen, and checking the weather, you can do your best to ensure that you don’t fall through the ice.

Just as it is with anything else you do out in nature, safety should always be the first thing on your mind. If the ice does not seem thick enough or even seems just a little bit sketchy, it is best to avoid venturing out onto it. The reason for this being, at the end of the day, falling into a frozen lake can become a life-or-death situation in a matter of moments.

No fishing trip is worth someone’s life, and unfortunately, we are forced to relearn this lesson each and every winter. So far we have not had any life-ending frozen lake mishaps this winter, but with about a month of winter left, there is still plenty of time. For this reason, we urge all ice-goers to be especially cautious, even more so if the temperature in your region has been fluctuating above and below freezing.