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Getting Ready for the Ice Fishing
by Gary Holmgren

  Safety is the number one concern for the winter fishing season. Every year in Minnesota some die because of not thinking about winter ice fishing safety rules. Yes I am as guilty as the next person also. What we all say " it will never happen to me ". Lets start with some things to think about.

  • Ice Thickness
  • Personal Safety and First Aid
  • Fire Safety
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  Ice Thickness: This is the time of year we can't wait to get back at the ol'fishing hole. Snow on the shoreline and ice starting to form around the edges of the lake. When the ice starts to cover the lakes we have to remember that all ice is not created equal. There may be springs or under water current in spots. Thickness of the ice should be monitored during the ice fishing season. The general rule is 4 inches of good clear ice to walk on, but even at 4 inches it will not be the same thickness all over the lake. Snowmobiles and ATVs should have 5-6 inches of good clear ice. Light trucks and cars should have at least 12 inches of good clear ice. Good advice is to check with the local bait and tackle shop to find out any problem areas on the lake.

  Personal Safety and First Aid:  General rules of personal safety should be thought about now before we go out on the ice. Its best to have a plan if something should go wrong. The chances of surviving a disaster is greatly increased. The ice fisherman should have rope and two ice picks or screwdrivers in their pockets. You can pick up 10 - 25 feet of 3/8 nylon rope at any store. If you should fall through the ice you can use the ice picks to help you get back up on the ice. When walking on the early ice you should have someone with you and walk a good distance apart. If one should fall through the other may rescue them. It is a good idea to carry a cell phone also if one is available. Victims make victims they say. This is very true as we try to help someone in trouble we put ourselves also in danger. Some say when driving on the ice you should keep the windows open and the doors ajar or open for an escape if necessary. There are many other things to think about when ice fishing as never leave you vehicle parked in the same spot for a long period of time. Don't park on cracks or ice heaves. Never drive in the dark or during a heavy snow when you can't see ahead. First aid should also be reviewed in case you should need it. Hypothermia is the most common. If you start shivering and getting tired its time to get warmed up. Someone that has wet clothing should be brought into a heated shack or vehicle have their clothing removed and put in blankets or sleeping bag. Medical attention is needed by people that are disorientated, frozen body parts, or unresponsive.

  Fire Safety: This is something that we don't think about to much, but there has been deaths in Minnesota related to fires in ice houses. Some safety rules to remember are never have a open type of fire in your ice house. This is very hard to believe that anyone would do this, but yes they bring in their grill for heat or cooking. This is not only a fire hazard but also produces carbon monoxide. If you cook use a camp stove and make sure you vent the house. A smoke alarm should be placed in all houses that are used over night and for extended periods of time. There should also be a fire extinguisher in the house also. If there should be a fire it don't take long to have the house in total blaze.

  Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:  Carbon monoxide poisoning is not uncommon either. Make sure your heater is in shape and vented properly. Some say we open the door enough to keep it vented. This may be true for a time but it don't take long to have a build up of carbon monoxide in a small space either. The signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are, starts with a headache and drowsiness to follow. Any time you develop a headache you should vent the house and get fresh air to see if that helps. Carbon monoxide don't dissipate from our systems easily as it gets into the blood and attaches to the blood cells. If you have a house you use for over night and extended periods of time you should have a Carbon Monoxide Detector in with you.

  The wrap up: There are many thing not listed here. Some things to think about are portable radio, extra flashlight and batteries, GPS for navigation, and now is the time to pre plan for the winter fishing adventures.

May you all have a safe and fish filled season.

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