Ice Picks could save your life. Every ice fisherman should have a set of these around their beck when on the ice.
I once participated in an Ice Safety Training Class. We were taught on the ice and learned many of the things that I am sharing in this series. The Natural Resource Police Instructors had cut a hole in the ice and we were required to jump in.
Two divers were available in the water that was well over our heads. When I jumped in, I never touched bottom. I knew it would be cold and uncomfortable. Despite knowing we would go through the ice, several people immediately panicked. The divers went into action and were able to get them out quickly.
Now it was my turn. Being a “wuss” was not an option. I jumped in and … The breath left my lungs. We were told to get to the edge of the ice and scissor kick to allow our torso to get on top of the ice. My “Torso” was bigger than most and the ice broke from my struggle. I busted ice for 10 feet. The divers were available, but I needed to man up. One final kick and I was atop the ice like a beached whale. Slowly I waddle wiggled toward the thicker ice. I was out of the water but completely exhausted, wet, and freezing cold. My lips were blue, and the trainers quickly threw a blanket around me and helped me to a warming tent. I have never been so cold.
The next level of the course was to use “ice picks” to help get out of the water. Since I was the only one in the class that had successfully exited the water without help, they asked me to go again. This time I would have Ice Picks around my neck.
The set of Ice Picks they gave me were homemade from two 6-inch sections from a wooden broom handle. They were connected with a 3-foot-long parachute cord that was threaded through a hole in the wood and knotted on the other side. Two long thick nails had been hammered into the end of the handles. Each nail head had been cut off and sharpened. A hole was drilled opposite of each opposing nail, so they could connect when inserted. This way no sharp nail was exposed.
I wore the Ice Pick rig around my neck and yelled “Geronimo”. The second swim was no better than the first. You are almost on the edge of disaster and panic. This time I went under the water and came up under the ice. My eyes were open, and my mouth was gasping for breath. Oh Yea, I am supposed to use the Ice Picks. I reached around my neck and grabbed them. Pulling them apart, I lunged my body above the ice and slammed the Ice Picks into the ice surface. Within moments I was away from the hole and safe. Everyone was applauding and cheering. The trainers wrapped me up in the blanket and took me into the warming hut. This time it took me just seconds to get out of the water.
The good news is that we all learned a lesson. None of us venture onto the ice without Ice Picks. I carry extras for friends. No fish is worth dying over. Being prepared for the worst often prevents it from happening. Mrs. Montana Grant was not impressed with all my heavy, wet clothes. It took a couple of dryer loads.
Ice Fish smarter and safer!
For more Montana Grant, find him drying off at www.montanagrantfishing.com.