Ice fishing is fun when anglers adhere to safety

Ice fishing is fun when anglers adhere to safety

Ice fishing is a fun outdoor activity in cold weather when done safely.

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The extremely cold weather we’re experiencing has accelerated ice fishing across the Midwest. Some areas that were not accustomed to having frozen lakes and ponds are now home to safe ice. But before you head out for an ice fishing adventure, make sure you take all the proper precautions. When safety is put first, ice fishing can be a lot of fun.

Ice fishing is fun for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I enjoy it so much because ice fishing allows a group to go out fishing together when most people don’t even think about that possibility. You don’t have to be quiet, and it’s a fairly simple endeavor. You don’t need to be a skilled hunter either. Vertical fishing is your only option.

Only a few tools are necessary. You must have an ice auger to drill your holes. There are many gas and electric models on the market, but old-fashioned hand crank drills work just fine. You need a fishing rod with a hook, hook and bait. Special ice fishing rods are much shorter than regular ones. They are useful in tight spaces and for staying close to your fishing hole. Regular bars will work if you don’t want to invest in snow bars. You need a scraper to remove floating ice and mud from the hole. For bait, worms and minnows are the standard. Small jigs work well too.

Suffering from the cold, sitting on a bucket is one way to do it, but igloos are the way to go. Huts are ice fishing shelters used to keep anglers out of the elements. They are commercially made of plastic and fabric, but home-made, wood-built huts also work. It’s nice for staying warm, but limits scenery and natural exposure on nice days.

Safety is key to enjoying the ice Essential to enjoying ice fishing. Be sure to check the thickness of the ice near the edge of the water you intend to fish. A good rule of thumb is to never fish on ice less than 4 inches thick. While thin ice may hold one person, ice thickness varies across bodies of water, and you don’t want to risk falling through it. Already this year, I have learned of one death due to falling through the ice. Unfortunately, it is very likely that more will happen.

Never ice fish alone. Getting someone else’s help to pull you to safety if you want to break through is essential. Wear a life jacket, and carry an ice pick or screwdriver in your pocket. The jacket will keep you afloat, and the ice pick will allow you to grab hold of the ice and pull yourself out. Make sure you change clothes in your car, so you can get rid of your wet clothes when you get to safety.

Ice fishing is a lot of fun when the group gets together to spend some time outdoors during cold snaps like the ones we’ve been experiencing recently. The group I fish with likes to light a fire in a barrel on the bank of our local pond. The fire sure is useful for warming our hands after handling a few ice-cold crappies. These fish then become signature table fare. Maybe during a Super Bowl party. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who would argue that fillets are better out of cold water, and that the water doesn’t get any colder than it does when ice fishing.

See you on the road…

Brandon Butler writes an outdoors column for The Republic. Send comments to (email protected). For more from Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast at www.driftwoodoutdoors.com or wherever podcasts are broadcast.

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