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Before you go stepping foot on any frozen body of water this winter, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure a safe and enjoyable hardwater experience.
By Kierran Broatch
Tags: freshwater
Whether you venture onto the hardwater by day or night, there is safety in numbers.
ve. Ice picks are made up of two interlocking plastic or wooden blocks which connect together via heavy cordage. They are intended to be worn around an ice angler’s upper body, easily accessible over their outer garments. In the unfortunate event someone wearing them should ever fall in, the picks could be pulled apart and then protruding metal spikes can help the user claw his or her way out of the icy water.

An additional necessity to have amongst your group during ice outings is a good length of brightly colored rope. Chalk it up with one of those things you hope to never use, yet it’s a good idea to bring. Tying one end of the rope to something that floats like a durable rubber dog toy will make it easier not only to throw, but to grab hold of should it ever come to that. Keep it neatly coiled up in your sled so it’s easily accessible at a moment’s notice.

Items such as a spud bar, rope, ice picks and spiked cleats are standard ice fishing safety gear.

While not always thought of as a safety feature, what’s on the bottom of your feet can be the difference between a good day and a nightmare on slick ice—just ask anyone who’s ever pulled a muscle while running for a tip-up flag or slipped and whacked their noggin. Thankfully, hardwater anglers have plenty of options for studded footwear to provide solid traction on snow-free ice. There are many types of cleats, also known as creepers, which can strap right over each boot or you can insert hex-head screws or snowmobile studs directly into your boot soles like surfcasters do for rock-hopping.

An entire article can be devoted on proper ice fishing attire to ensure a comfortable and safe experience in subzero temperatures, so I won’t try cramming it in here. One thing that should be brought up, however, is to avoid cotton while choosing your layers of clothing. Cotton has been labeled “the death fabric” by many ice anglers because it is known to soak up water and suck heat away from your body. Do yourself a favor and stick to materials like merino wool or synthetics like polyester, which have great moisture-wicking capabilities when working up a sweat on the ice. Don’t forget to keep an extra set of dry clothes and a towel or blanket in the vehicle for the unfortunate scenario of someone getting wet while ice fishing.

Lastly, remember the phrase safety in numbers. Ice fishing is a winter sport built on camaraderie. Not only is it more fun while sharing it with your friends, it’s a whole lot smarter too. I try to never step on a frozen body of water alone. If something bad were to ever happen out there, at least I know I have fishing partners that I can trust to make the right moves. Mistakes can be very costly while ice fishing – the main goal is to know how to avoid them, but you also must be prepared for if and when they do happen. Here’s to a safe and enjoyable ice season!

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