Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dress Warm, Stay Warm.. & Stay Above the Ice!

I  have been ice fishing for about 10 years now and it is a sport I have grown to love and hate, depending on the winter. So far this winter has been a frustrating one.  It takes nerves of steal to step out onto a frozen lake for the first time each season, listening to the ice crack and grown beneath your feet, I dont care how long you have been doing it, that first step each season is still a hard one to take. Seasons like this, in which the ice has arrived late, some anglers are in such a hurry to take advantage of it, and the short time it is here, that they ignore the basic safety, and many lose their lives. 

Ice fishing more then any other kind of fishing requires many safety options. Whether it is safety from the cold or from falling through, you should take these steps to ensure you have a safe trip each time out on the ice

1) Dress Warm, Stay Warm

It is all about layers, from your toes to your feet layers should be used to keep you warm and dry on the ice. I start off with an Under Armour Cold gear suit as my base layer. This wicks moisture from the body and keeps dry when slugging in heavy snow. On top of that I wear a fleece top and bottoms for added warm, this layer is heavier, but easily removed if you get to warm. For a jacket you want something with warm but not a lot of bulk, you want to be able to move freely and fish but still keep warm. Ice Armour makes a great bomber style jacket that works as my third layer. A pair of standard track or sweat pants work as my 3rd layer on the bottom. The final layer is my Ice Armor suit, it has a shell for a jacket that works as a great wind break and keeps the wet snow off your body. The bibs are padded to allow for comfort when kneeling or sitting on a pail and keep you warm and dry for those long 8-12 days on the ice

If I start to warm up, I start by removing the shell, I use the shell mostly as a wind break or in heavy snow to stay dry.  On extremely warm days I may remove the fleece top and put the bomber back on, this still gives you some control over the dampness while still staying warm.

On my feet, I have a pair of Under Armor socks. They are moisture controlled and warm, the are not bulky and will fit in most boots with ease.  If you dont have a great pair of boots, a second pair of socks may help. Dress socks are nice and thin and will add a little warmth without the bulk. Finally boots are the key, I burnt through 3 pairs in my first three seasons on the ice, finally I came across the Cabela's Trans Alaskan series, they are super warm, and although they are expensive they are cheaper then replacing boots each season or the costs of meds when you catch phenomena.

For gloves, I bring two pairs, a thick mit style I use for getting on or off the ice, dont need the movement as much as the warmth. For fishing or tasks, I use a task glove. Frabill has a great task glove that offers some weather resistance and still allows for good finger movement.. keep you gloves dry! once they are wet through they will not longer keep your fingers warm

For a toque, I always bring two, a lighter version, and a heavier version, both need the ability to fit over your ears to keep them warm in windy conditions. A balaclava is a nice thing to have but is not required on most trips. I keep one in the inner pocket for my shell as a "just in case"

2) Stay above the ice

So the above will keep you warm, now lets focus on staying dry... When on the ice in early season I never leave home without my ice picks. They are around my neck and accessible at all times, to this day  I have not needed to use them yet, but Im always  happy they are there.  

Some Anglers opt for Float Suits over the standard bib and parka. In hind sight I personally should have went that route as well. the float suit has all the warmth and features of the traditional bib and parka but the extra safety features make it worth the extra cash. If you dont have a float suit, the next option is an inflatable life vest. These are great in open water and on the ice. they are thin enough to wear over your jacket and will keep you up right in case you go in (check your jackets instructions as some are not meant for use in -0 temps)
An Ice Spud is used like a walking stick. I tap the ice with the spud every few feet to check for strength. when not tapping I carry the spud horizontal, if by chance i fall in, the long bar can act and a beam across the hole and help you keep your head above the water. I have also added a sticker to my spud that acts like a ruler. this allows me to accurately check ice thickness after each hole is drilled. Early ice is very dangerous, even more so when on an unfamiliar lake, always spud your first time traveling a new path

Rope should be kept in your sled or portable ice hut, if by chance you or a buddy go though the rope can be thrown to help pull you out, without putting the rescuer in jeopardy. Even if you fish alone bring a rope, if you go through a passer by may not be prepared for a rescue buy you always will be.

Ice cleats on your feet is another important item during early ice. The lack of snow will make the ice slippery and falls can cause broken arms and wrists or a concussion. There are many options available on the market today, but I chose to drill studs into my boots as they are a permanent option and never slip off (yak trax are also a good alternative)

Last but not least.. extra clothes and blankets. in my car I keep a full set of extra clothes along with a blanket, If by chance you fall through you will need to change out of the wet cloths as soon as possible to get warm and dry. This is a must as part of any anglers safety kit 

These are just a few of the safety measures that will help keep you safe Ice fishing, stay safe, like you I cant wait to get out on the ice this year, but dont rush it, it is not worth your life.

1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting information, I like your blog, Thanks very much! Keep posting....

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