Ice fishing is a fun and unique way to enjoy the outdoors, but it also comes with certain risks. But is ice fishing dangerous? It can be, if you don’t take the proper precautions. While ice fishing can be a safe and enjoyable experience when safety guidelines are followed, it is important to understand the potential dangers and how to avoid them.
Falling Through Thin or Unstable Ice
One of the most obvious risks of ice fishing is falling through the ice. This can happen if the ice is not thick enough or if it has been weakened by factors such as currents, rain, or snow. It is absolutely required to check the thickness of the ice before heading out and to avoid areas where the ice may be thin or weak. Your local park ranger should be familiar with the ice thickness of nearby frozen lakes and rivers.
If you somehow fall through the ice, is it game over? Not necessarily. Wearing a personal floatation device (PFD) or a life jacket can drastically help to increase your chances of survival if you happen to fall through the ice. We would advise avoiding ice fishing alone; it’s always best to venture onto the ice in a pair or group setting. This makes it much easier to get out of the water if somebody falls in.
If you fall through the ice, it’s important to stay calm and take immediate action to get out of the water as quickly as possible. Here are some steps to follow:
- Try to kick your feet and flail your arms to help you back onto the ice.
- Reach for the edge of the ice, if you can see it. Use your arms to pull yourself out of the water and onto the ice.
- If the hole in the ice is too far away to reach, try to roll onto your stomach and crawl to the nearest solid ice or the edge of the hole.
- If you are unable to get out of the water, try to stay afloat by keeping your head and body as still as possible.
- Try to signal for help using a whistle or other loud noise, or by waving your arms.
- Once you are out of the water, remove any wet clothing and wrap yourself in warm, dry clothing or blankets to prevent hypothermia.
- As soon as possible, get to a warm place, and seek medical attention, especially if you are experiencing signs of hypothermia such as confusion, slurred speech, or uncontrolled shivering.
Another potential danger of ice fishing is hypothermia. Spending prolonged periods of time outdoors in cold temperatures can cause your body temperature to drop, leading to hypothermia. To prevent hypothermia, it is important to dress in layers and to wear warm clothing, such as a winter coat, insulated boots, and gloves. It’s also important to stay dry and to bring an extra change of clothes in case you get wet.
Frostbite is another risk associated with ice fishing. This condition occurs when the skin and tissues freeze, and it can be caused by prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures. To prevent frostbite, it is important to dress warmly and to keep your hands and feet warm and dry. Taking breaks to warm up and staying active can also help to prevent frostbite.
Fishing equipment can also pose a danger during ice fishing. It is important to use the proper fishing equipment, such as a sharp ice auger, and to handle it with care to avoid accidents. It’s also important to be aware of the potential for falling equipment or lines, and to keep a safe distance from other anglers to avoid getting tangled up.
Many of us ice fishers have been pierced by our hooks on multiple occasions; it’s simply bound to happen. To remove a fishing hook that has pierced your skin, you should follow these steps:
- Disinfect the area around the hook with soap and water or an antiseptic solution.
- If the hook is not too deeply embedded, you can try to gently pull it out using a pair of pliers.
- If the hook is deeply embedded or you are unable to remove it using pliers, you may need to cut the hook off. Use a pair of sharp scissors or a hook-removal tool to cut the hook as close to the skin as possible.
- Once the hook is removed, clean the area again with soap and water or an antiseptic solution.
- Apply a bandage to the wound and keep an eye on it for signs of infection. If the wound becomes red, swollen, or starts to drain pus, seek medical attention.
Note: If the hook is in a sensitive area, such as the eye, or the person is unable to remove it themselves, seek medical attention immediately.
Other Potential Dangers
In addition to these risks, there are also other possible dangers associated with ice fishing, such as getting lost or stranded on the ice, encountering wild animals, or experiencing a medical emergency. To ensure your safety when ice fishing, it is important to be prepared for any situation and to have a pre-set plan in place in case of an emergency.
One of the best ways to optimize your safety when ice fishing is to always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. It’s also a good idea to bring a cell phone and a fully charged power bank in case of emergency. A GPS or a map of the area can also be helpful in case you get lost.
First Aid is a Must
Another way to ensure your safety when ice fishing is to carry a first aid kit and know how to use it. A first aid kit should include basic supplies such as bandages, gauze, and adhesive tape, as well as any medications that you may need. It’s also a good idea to bring a whistle, a flashlight, and a flare in case of emergency.
Don't Skimp Out on Ice Fishing Safety!
Ice fishing can be entirely safe and enjoyable when proper precautions are taken. However, it is important to understand the potential risks and how to avoid them. By checking the ice thickness, dressing warmly, and having a plan in place for emergencies, you can greatly reduce the risks associated with ice fishing and ensure your safety.