Safety on the Ice

Fishing has been a big part of my life since I was a little girl. I remember donning all of my snow clothes many Saturdays, not to build snowmen, go sledding, or skiing (though we did those things too), but to go ice fishing. Ice fishing was a relatively safe procedure in my child eyes. 

Step 1: Get on the snowmobile.

Step 2: Wait on the snowmobile while dad set up the tents, heaters, drilled holes, and set up fishing poles.

Step 3: Sit in chairs and watch a tiny bobber float around a watery hole in the ground. 

Step 4: Eat lunch.

Step 5: Pack up (meaning sit on the snowmobile while dad packed up). 

Step 6: Warm up with hot cocoa that mom had waiting for us at home. 

Catching fish was not always a part of the equation and safety never crossed my mind. 

When I turned 18, I decided to join the local volunteer fire department. One of the many trainings involved in being a Firefighter near mountain lakes is ice rescue. The first time I ever considered the ice dangerous was during my first ice rescue training. Instead of donning my snow clothes, I was donning a “gumby suit” – a suit that has the ability to keep two grown men afloat (one is presumably wearing the suit and the other is usually being rescued) and keeps the person wearing the suit nice and toasty in freezing water.

ImageIn this suit I was required lower myself into the water through a (typically) pre-cut hole in the ice to simulate the rescue of a fellow Firefighter. Now, after completing ice rescue training more times than I can count with two different agencies, I am fully familiar with the dangers of being on ice. Will this stop me from ice fishing or bringing the ice fishing experience to my girls? No. Will it help me be more aware of safety practices while doing so? Absolutely. 

Some tips I’ve learned: 

1. A dog that goes through the ice is more likely to self rescue than the person that goes out to rescue the dog and falls in, whether the person goes onto the ice or not. 

2. Life jackets are a great tool when going onto the ice, especially with kids. If they go in, they’ll float. 

3. If you’re snowmobiling and hit open water, stay on the throttle. Do not stop. If you stop, the machine will end up at the bottom of the lake and you’ll be in the water. If you keep going, you may just make it across to the next piece of ice or land. 

4. A rope and ice picks that are easily accessible are great self-rescue/assisted-rescue tools. 

Some additional references: 

http://wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing/Reports/Pages/safety.aspx

http://fishing.about.com/od/icefishing/a/ice_tips.htm

http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/ice/index.html

~ Thankfully Exhausted

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