With the winter here one of the best activities at Ohio Lakes is ice fishing. But ice fishing has many dangers, as many Ohio anglers will tell you, so its important to know certain ice fishing safety tips to use at Ohio lakes.
The first thing to understand that ice is never 100% safe. Never. It doesn’t matter if it’s clear ice, cloudy ice, or that it doesn’t pop when you step on it. Ice always carries a risk and should be treated with care. Although certain colors of ice can indicate thickness, ice can also be very fickle. Just because it’s 4 inches thick in one spot, five feet away may not be the same strength. Ice strength also changes on the weather and time of year, and since Ohio weather can be temperamental ice thickness change day to day. When trying to understand ice dangers it’s also important to remember what each inch of ice means in terms of safety and capability. See the chart below.
(credit to Ohio Department of Natural Resources)
As you can see each inch of freeze is relative to how much weight it can support. As a rule of thumb if the ice is under 2ft, then you shouldn’t be on it. Period. Now if you want to ice fish with others, as is actually recommended for safety, then you should be thicker than 4 inches or since you have to calculate your combined weight plus your gear. Remember that just because a website or a person tells you the depth or thickness of the ice don’t just trust everyone’s word, check the ice for yourself with an auger or other devices to check the thickness. It’s also a good idea to fish at lakes where the information is provided by reliable agencies such as at Indian lake.
It is always a good idea to ice fish with a partner or a guide so that way if something goes wrong there can be immediate assistance. However, if going solo is more your style then there are several ways you can maximize your safety. Without a partner on the ice you can try to coordinate so that where you are fishing is close by to other anglers. Another option is to make a plan where someone knows your exact fishing schedule. Someone who is not also ice fishing knows what time you got to the ice, where you park your car and when you plan to return home and either txt or call that person. And of course in today’s world cell phones can mean the difference between life and death. Keep your cell phone in sealed plastic or some type of waterproof container so that in case something does go wrong you can make a call to emergency services. Of course it’s not wise to rely on cell phones solely, as some lakes have limited cell phone service.
And of course a large part of ice fishing safety is what gear you choose to use. Besides devices to check ice thickness also make sure to wear appropriate clothing for warmth, and if you do fall into the ice DO NOT take off your wet clothes. Keep them on, as they will keep you insulated from the cold, and of course seek help immediately. Also it is a good idea to wear a life vest for obvious reasons, and to keep either a rope, pole or other device handy to help pull someone else out of the water if need be. Never try to reach into the water as you run the risk of also going into the water.
Remember also choose safety first when ice fishing so that it can remain a timeless and enjoyable activity for you throughout the winter.
Written by Justin Shelton Lakefront Consultant – The Lake Team