Ice Season Safety Equipment

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Ice Season Safety Equipment

Ice Season Safety Equipment
Kevin Dahlke (kevin)
BackWoods Sportsman OutDoors

Living here in New England this winter season we have had a very unusual fall/winter transition especially for anglers that like to get onto the ice in search of their quarry. We have had cold weather that would skim over the lakes and ponds and as the ice is firming up we would get a spell of warm weather that either would soften things or take away anything that was formed.

When the cold had finally settled in for a fair amount of time the ice was getting to be a couple inches of solid good ice. Then what happens is we get into our snow storm phase and that dumps up to 2 feet of the white stuff onto this good ice. In turn what this did was weigh down the minimal ice that was there and water comes on top to form slush and an insulating layer that is not what the ice angler wanted to see.

Then the typical New England weather of having spring days show up with rain, wind and 60 plus degree days. This was a good thing at the beginning as this had melted all of the snow that was on the ice but also softened the ice considerably so if you threw a stone out onto the ice if would go through. Along with this the shorelines have all opened up once again and access to the ice will be taking a number of days once again before any ice will be acceptable for walking onto.

Looks like there may have to be a road trip to the North Country for any type of chance at getting into any ice fishing at this time. Luckily the gas prices are at an all time low so this won’t be as hard on your pocket book for making those trips. For those that are able to get out onto early ice these are also possibly some dangerous times and caution should always be taken.

If you are unsure or nervous about venturing onto the safe ice, no ice is safe, and then it may be better to stay home and do other things. For those that are out there searching for fish there are a few items that you should make sure that you have along so that if the worst were to happen, you can either get yourself out of a bad situation or someone nearby will be able to assist you.

The things that we carry along for safety equipment should include a spud bar, PFD life preserver, rope, ice picks and also a floatation cushion. These items pack very well into any sled and should always be taken along so that you have access to them or someone that may be helping you can get access to them to help save your life. Water in the winter time is very cold and you only have a short period of time before hyperthermia sets in and you don’t have the ability to use your arms and legs to help get you out of a bad situation.

To start off the SPUD BAR is a very important piece of equipment and every angler should have with them especially early in the season. This looks similar to a spear but is a long bar with a chisel on one end. You hold the spud bar in your hand and hit the chisel end into the ice in front of you as you take each step. If you hit the ice and the chisel doesn’t go through, the ice is a little thicker there as opposed to when you hit the ice and the chisel goes through you better back up as you may fall through that area.

If you are hitting the ice and is looks fairly solid, take a moment to chisel a hole through the ice and check the thickness as you go along. This way you have an understanding as to the thickness and a gauge for you as you are walking along. This is very important as ice does not freeze uniformly and one spot you may have 4 inches and then ten feet away you may have only an inch or two. Springs in the lakes will do this as well and this is why using a spud bar is very important for traveling on the ice.

Many anglers don’t think about a PFD life preserver for their ice fishing adventures but should be packed in with your gear as a safety item. We use these in the summer for saving our lives if we were to fall into the water and why not in the winter. One thing when you break through the ice and are in the water is if you don’t get out fast, you will start losing the ability to use your arms and legs. By having a PFD preserver on and you are in the frigid water, this will at least keep you floating so someone can help you and find you out on the ice. This is always an item that should be brought along and many times is not.

We all have ropes in the trunks of our cars or the back of the pickup and why not grab them when heading out onto the ice. Many don’t think about a rope but this may be one of the most important pieces that should be packed into the ice sled. One thing that a rope is very useful for is throwing it out to an angler in distress and this allows you to stay away from the questionable spot. Having a hook or clip on the end is good as well as this way the person in the water can wrap the rope around their upper body and clip in the rope as opposed to trying to hold onto the rope as they are being pulled out.

A minimum of 20-25 feet should be the length and longer is always better. When rescuing a person in the water we don’t want to get to close to the edge where they broke in as the rescuer may break through as well. Always have a rope along and there is another piece that will go along with the rope and that is a boat seat cushion.

Some don’t think about it but when sitting in your ice house you may be sitting on one of those floatation cushions. These are not PFD’s but they float and will definitely be a huge help if trying to rescue someone. These usually have straps on them and will aid the person in the water for something to hold onto. Also with the rope, wrap the rope around the cushion and clip the end and snug it tight around the cushion. Now you will be able to throw this out to the distressed person and give them something that floats, to hang onto and also something with some weight for you to throw the rope out to them.

The final thing that is a must in any ice traveler’s arsenal is called ice picks. These are hand grip sized handles that have a pointed sharp pick end coming out of them. These are used after you would have broken through the ice and you are hanging onto the edge of the ice. These should be carried around your neck so they are easily accessed after falling through the ice and getting your bearings on what had just happened.

Place each ice pick into each hand with the pick point end down towards the ice. Hit each pick into the ice and using your arms try pulling yourself out of the water. Continue doing one hand at a time in front of the last and once you get your movement going forward, you will be able to pull yourself out onto the top of the ice and to safety. Never stand up when getting out of the water but instead roll away from the hole until you are once again on thicker and safer ice.

These are only a few items that every angler should carry along and don’t take up to much room in your sled. There are other items as well and everyone has different applications for using these and other items. Safety on the ice is number one and if nervousness is over whelming to you that may be a sign that you should stay clear of the ice. Ice is never safe and should always be ventured with caution in every step you take as it only takes one step to get into a dangerous situation.

Be very careful out there especially here in New England as the ice season of 2008-2009 is and has been off to a very rocky start. Once we get a good base down there will be plenty of time for fishing through the ice, but patience must be taken until we get to those days. Think safety at all times on and around the ice and always pay attention to others out there as well and you may not need help one day but there may be another out there that will. Have a safe ice season and come back and enjoy another next year.

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