We have all heard that three to four inches of ice is “considered safe” for people to walk on. ATV’s and snowmobiles on five inches or more, and cars or light trucks are “safe” on ten inches or more of ice.
Ice is ice, right? No, that’s not right! Early season, mid-season, and late ice can all have different characteristics, vary in consistency and support different loads. Ice can also vary in strength due to how it is formed and what weather anomalies it has endured.
Ice fishermen should know how to assess these variables, read the ice and act accordingly. They should also be familiar with the body of water they are fishing on and whether there is or has been any currents, recent wind, moving water, springs, or rock piles under the ice making some areas thinner and unstable.
One can learn a lot about general ice safety from watching videos or social media. Here is a good example. This gentlemen is by himself. It is always recommended to fish or venture out on the ice with at least one “buddy”. https://www.facebook.com/michael.aragon.754/videos/1519699908113595/
Note the basic safety equipment consisting of:
• Ice cleats on the feet
• A life jacket or float suit
• A spud bar aka ice chisel with adequate weight
• Ice picks around the neck worn on the outside of the coat
• A rope of at least 50’
The most commonly misused of these items is a spud bar. It is not just a walking stick. Stab that ice with some vigor and know how many hits in the same place it takes to bust through how many inches of ice. The average man will need at least two hits in the same spot to determine if that ice is thick enough to safely support his weight. A rope should have something on the end of it that has enough weight to be thrown and still float. A float dummy as used in retriever dog training would be a good choice.
The best way to learn about new areas is to interview experienced locals that have observed that area for years. Such people could be DNR officers, fishing guides, bait shop employees, veteran local fishermen, or those knowledgeable with water rescue. I always recommend letting someone who isn’t going with you to know where you are intending to venture and what time you intend to return. If you do ever find yourself in trouble this can save a life. Always be safe and have fun this winter.
Dan Krauth owns the Crazy Minnow Company at 1124 S. 8th St. Clear Lake.
Call 641-357-BAIT for up to date info on current lake conditions.
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