Our incredibly mild winter continues with only brief runs of really cold temperatures, which has delayed any real ice fishing this winter. The ice reports from the entire region have not been very promising; no one is reporting really solid ice. Local lakes had several inches of ice, but the last warm-up turned most of it to slush. No real solid ice fishing conditions are being reported until north of Duluth, Minn.

With these conditions prevailing, it seems like a good time to talk about safety on the ice and what a person should do if he finds himself falling through the ice. The first rule of safety is for the fisherman to make sure someone knows where he is going and to take a buddy if possible. It is always a good idea to check with the area bait shop for ice conditions. A minimum of 4 inches of solid ice is recommended. Ice fishermen should also carry some safety gear: a life jacket or an ice float suit, a signal whistle and a set of ice picks. The ice picks are really important and cost less than $10.

There are several important things to do to survive after falling through ice.

First, do not panic. When you first hit the cold water, the shock to the body will force all the air out of your lungs, but brace yourself and stop the reflex to gasp and breathe. You need to keep your head above water until your breath settles down (about one minute). Next, work your way over to the edge and find the path where you walked in (it will have solid ice) and pull as much of your body up on the ice as you can. If the ice breaks away, push the chunks out of the way and keep moving forward to get to solid ice.

If you have ice picks, use them to work your way out of the water, and then roll yourself away from the hole in the ice. If you did not have ice picks, you will have to kick your legs to help drive your body up on the ice. When you get up, remove as much wet clothing as is reasonable. Wet clothing draws more heat from the body than cold air. Then get help to get warm. It is important to warm up slowly; sudden heat, such as a hot bath, can cause a heart attack.

Let’s enjoy the winter season, but be careful on the ice. Until next time…keep a tight line.

Contact Dick at hookedonfishing@comcast.net.