Ice fishing turns angling into a year-round sport, but the element of ice also adds risk.
The safest ice anglers fish on water bodies they are familiar with and dress to help prevent frostbite and hypothermia, and have a basic knowledge of ice safety and ice rescue.
If you are new to the sport, team up with someone who knows that water and how the ice tends to form and change, and heed these safety reminders:
· Take basic ice safety and rescue training and know the basics about hypothermia before venturing out on ice, especially if you plan to fish with youngsters.
· Before you head out tell someone where you plan to fish and when you plan to return.
· Check out ice conditions before you go. Ask other anglers or local sources and take into account changes in the weather during the past 24 hours. Most unsafe ice conditions occur early and late in the season, when the weather is warmer.
· Test the ice ahead of you with an ice spud bar or an auger.
· Carry a pair of long spikes on a heavy string around your neck. That way, if you break through the ice, you can use the spikes to grip the ice and pull yourself out of the water.
· Blue ice is usually hard. Watch out for opaque, gray, dark or porous spots in the ice that could be weak, soft areas. Ice also tends to thin more quickly at the shorelines.
· Watch for pressure ridges. These are areas of open water or thin ice where the ice has cracked and heaved due to expansion from freezing.
· Don’t leave children unsupervised on the ice.
· Avoid ice on rivers and streams, or where a river or stream enters a lake, pond or reservoir.
(Report by Montana FWP; Cover photo: homepages.gac.edu)