Ice Fishing Tips – Early Ice

December 14, 2011 by  

By Nick Simonson

While taking those first nervous steps onto the ice this weekend, I stared down into the weedy shallows with their vegetation frozen in place, the last respiration of openwater photosynthesis trapped in the tiny bubbles just inches from the surface of the frozen water. I traced my way along a small crack and as I approached the area where it intersected another fracture, both separations shuddered and the white lines darkened with a slight filling of water. Though nothing more beyond the pop and the slight flow occurred, it was an early-season reminder that no ice is safe ice and it made me remember some other ice fishing tips for another safe season of hardwater angling.
Ice Fishing Tips10. Carry basic survival tools with you. A knife, a lighter, a whistle and ice picks are the bare bones basics you’ll need in case of trouble. A small first aid kit, a GPS unit, duct tape and a Ziploc bag are great to have too. Much of what you need to survive can be packed in a tacklebox or in an Altoids tin. Use the Ziploc bag to keep it all waterproofed.
9. Be a “half-full” angler. Keep fuel levels on your truck, snowmobile and ATV at half or better when you’re headed to the lake. That way you’re guaranteed not to get stranded for lack of gasoline.
8. Keep it on the rocks, not on the ice. Save the celebration for after the outing. Alcohol impairs judgment, hinders mobility, results in faster body-heat loss and has been a contributing factor in many ice-related incidents in recent years.
7. Stay clear. A lesson passed on to me by a brother of mine, who will remain nameless, was learned the hard way. The drawstrings of his hooded sweatshirt became entangled in the gears of his power auger and the motor pulled his face flush with the housing. Thankfully he was able to hit the kill switch and cut himself free. Lesson learned – keep loose clothing and limbs away from motorized ice equipment – augers, ATVs, etc.
6. Layer up and pack an extra set of clothes. You can’t put on what you don’t bring with. Wear multiple layers of clothes and keep an extra set packed in your truck or sled, just in case a boot – or your whole body – breaks through.
5. Be thick-headed. Know what thicknesses of good, clear ice can support you. Three inches will hold a person. Seven inches will hold an ATV or snowmobile. 12 Inches will hold a small automobile and 16 inches of clear ice will generally hold a pickup. These are just guidelines, so adjust as needed based on ice conditions and formation in your area.
4. Watch the weather. Warming trends and liquid precipitation can have quick negative effects on ice quality. Monitor what’s coming and what has happened recently in the areas you plan to fish, as recent rains or prolonged temperatures above forty can weaken ice.
3. Know your water body. Have a good understanding – and a map – of areas on your fishing waters which are known to have questionable ice. Note areas of currents, springs, aerators, bridges, culverts or vegetation which make ice unstable and avoid traveling or fishing near them.
2. Let ‘em know before you go. Provide information to a non-angler back home as to what lake you’ll be on, what areas you’ll be fishing and when you’ll check in and return. Leave detailed directions on how to find you along with your contact information and that of the anglers you will be with.
1. No ice is safe ice. This is the number one for ice fishing tips. It’s not terra firma, there’s no safety net, and it just can’t be trusted. No matter what month of the hardwater season, no matter how cold it has been, no ice is 100 percent safe. Remember that with every step.
Follow these tips as you venture out this month on the first few inches of safe ice. Being cautious and prepared is the first step toward a successful outing, whether you pursue pike, perch or other pisces on the ice…in our outdoors.


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