Ice Fishing Safety

Considering the disturbing number of Canadians who die every year as a result of tragic, but preventable accidents on the ice, there’s no excuse not to get your safety sorted out before you trek onto slippery terrain.  

Not all ice is created equal and sometimes, looks can be dangerously deceiving. Here’s what you need to know before you head out.

Ice Fishing Safety Tips

  • If you are planning to get to your fishing spot on foot, then the ice should be at least 4″ inches. If you’re going to use an ATV or snowmobile, the ice should be at least 5”. Driving a car or smaller pickup? Then you’re looking at a minimum of 8″ to 12″. Trailer or mid-sized trucks require  12″ to 15″.
  • Make sure you have an ice pick and put it in a pocket or sheath that’s immediately accessible in the event you fall through. Even in the best conditions, ice is unpredictable. You can find picks that are designed to be worn around your neck, as well as pocket-picks.
  • Invest in a throw rope – or make your own. Of course, you’re hoping no one goes under, but don’t tempt fate: bring a floating rope so you can get help to anyone who may need it. And don’t get cocky just because you think your home or cottage is close by – you need these safety devices with you at all times.
  • Wear warm clothes. This seems obvious, but it is worth saying because we can often get overconfident. You want to aim for garb that’s designed for the winter. Don’t just layer up in any old clothing. I love Ullfrotte for undergarments and Columbia for outerwear. Also, bring a spare change of clothes!
  • Announce your plans. It’s great you want to get away from it all, but take it from Aron Ralston, it’s safer to let someone know where you’re going in case there’s an accident. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are. There are some things in life you can’t control, and the weather is one of them.  Do this even if you’re not ice fishing alone.
  • Bring a cell or walkie talkie. Again, this is a preventative measure, but one that could save lives if misfortune strikes.

  • Pack a first aid kit. The further away you are from emergency services, the more comprehensive your kit should be.
  • Check the forecast. Most Ontario lakes have a handy ice fishing forecast, so you can check the conditions of the lake before you venture out. A few seconds could save you time and keep you safe.

I get it: ice fishing is supposed to be fun and adventurous and having to concern yourself with matters as dull (and adrenaline draining) as safety can ruin the buzz of anticipation. Still, you wouldn’t go skydiving without some understanding of where your rip-cord is, or how your reserve chute operates, so don’t hunker down in your hut without knowing the risks – and how to prevent them.

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