Falling through the ice into frigid water is the type of experience you don’t soon forget. Even if it’s just a pant leg through an ½ inch of pond ice the feeling of cold water rushing against your skin can give anyone reason to panic. And, since it’s usually cold outside when there is ice to fall through, falling through the ice can usually put you at an increased risk of hypothermia.

These tips are by no means a comprehensive guide to being safe on the ice, but they are a good start.

  • 4 in. of new clear ice is recommended for foot travel; if you go by snowmobile or ATV, 5 in. is the minimum.
  • Don’t consume alcoholic beverages.
  • Never fish alone. Always take a buddy and let someone know where you are going.
  • Wear a life jacket under your winter gear. It not only will keep you buoyant should you fall through, but also will provide additional warmth.
  • Carry ice picks or ice awls. These will allow you to pull yourself out of the water and onto the ice.
    Should you go through, remain calm. Turn in the direction you came from. Extend your hands and arms, forcing the ice picks solidly into the ice ahead of you. Kick your feet and pull yourself out onto the ice. Do Not Stand Up! By rolling away from the hole, you spread out your weight until you are able to reach solid ice. Carry a signaling type of whistle. Using it may be the only way to let someone know that you are in trouble. A cell phone can be a valuable survival tool but only as long as it remains dry. Carrying a length of rope can also be useful.
  • Stay away from areas on lakes that have inlets or outlets. Be mindful about flowing water if fishing on a channel between two lakes. Ice fishing on Indiana’s reservoir impoundments can pose particular concerns; pay close attention to fluctuating water levels.
  • Remember to think ahead and have a plan.

Keeping these tips in mind can mean the difference between life and death, so make sure you are prepared for next the next time you get out on the ice.


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