With warming temperatures around the state it is time to put safety first. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks does not monitor the thickness of the ice or the wind velocity on the state’s fishable lakes and reservoirs.
But there are some measures ice fishermen and others recreating on the ice can take to make every trip safer.
• Don’t fish alone. Let others know exactly where you and your fishing partners are going and when you plan to return.
• Keep fishing holes small and few. When drilling fishing holes with an ice auger, keep the diameter under 8 inches. Bigger holes are not necessary to land fish and can create a safety hazard for others.
• Watch your step. Avoid ice fishing near feeder streams or known springs; brush, logs, plants or docks; multiple ice cracks or ice that is popping or otherwise audible; and dark-colored ice that may be weak.
• Spread out. Too many people congregated in one area may be more than the ice can safely support. Disperse weight and fishing holes.
• Be prepared for weather conditions. Dress in layers and wear thermal underwear, fleece or wool, and wind and waterproof outerwear, especially for feet, hands and head. Take extra clothes, food, water, sand for on-ice traction, and a sled for easy on-ice transport of all equipment.
• Be prepared for emergencies. Carry equipment such as ice picks or awls, rope, extra buckets and personal flotation devices. Also pack a first-aid kit and matches for starting a fire.