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Ice Fishing Safety

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Many outdoorsmen are increasing their time in the field by participating in the sport of ice fishing. This allows individuals to get out year round. However, as with any outdoor excursion, ice fishing is not without risk. Employ common sense and good judgment! Protective gear is available to help prevent frostbite. Outdoors apparel specifically made for frigid conditions is available in sporting goods stores. Innovative socks and boots that help prevent frostbite if used properly are good investments. Some things to remember:

  1. Never wear cotton socks as a first layer. Cotton absorbs moisture and increases the risk of frostbite. Your first sock layer should be made of nylon or rayon. Next, cotton may be used but wool is preferred. Wool pulls moisture away from the feet, thus your skin stays drier. Many lightweight boots now come with a layer of Thinsulate, which come in levels of 1,000 to 1,500. Inch for inch, there is no other insulation that keeps you warmer. Thinsulate insulation provides twice the warmth of other synthetic insulation, and one and one-half times the warmth of down. Nothing keeps you warmer.
  2. When otherwise properly garbed, 75%-80% of all heat loss from the body occurs from an uncovered head. Subsequently, a warm hat that covers the ears is extremely beneficial in maintaining body heat. Survive Outdoors endorses Head Soks. Made of a variety of materials including wool, the Head Sok is designed to be pulled down over the head and tucked in at the neck, thereby reducing heat loss from the neck area. The Head Sok, accompanied with a hat, provides the necessary warmth for your head.
  3. Mittens are much warmer than gloves. Most outdoorsmen know this by now. Mittens decrease the chance of frostbitten fingers. Somewhat cumbersome when working with rods, mittens are available with removable fingers for the short time you may need fine motor skills.

Is the ice thick enough?

At what thickness is ice considered safe is a common debate amongst outdoorsmen.

General rules of thumb:

  1. Two inches of solid ice is permissible for one person on foot, three inches for a group in single file;
  2. A snowmobile is safe on three inches;
  3. A single passenger automobile seven inches;
  4. A 2-1/2 ton truck eight inches;
  5. A 3-1/2 ton truck nine inches;
  6. A 7-8 ton truck ten inches.

Other factors to consider

  1. Ice structure, and outdoor temperature. For example, an ice sheet forms on water, but if the water level drops after the initial ice sheet forms, it may be left unsupported near the shore. This occurrence is detectable by hearing a hollow sound when probing with an ice chisel. This is NOT a safe area to fish.
  2. It is also important to note that when the temperature stays above freezing greater than 24 hours, ice begins to lose strength. At that point, the rules of thumb given above will no longer represent safe conditions.
  3. Distinguish between ice and snow. Snow on top of ice may obscure the actual thickness of the ice.

As stated in previous articles, if you have a gut feeling or concern that the ice might be too thin, STAY OFF THE ICE. Your desire to ice fish is not worth the risk of ice fishing on possibly dangerous ice. Use common sense and good judgment. Good luck ice fishing!

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