RAPID CITY, SD — Ice fishing can be a great day out in the wild, but it must be done safely to be successful. Here are some tips from jim Bussell, a professional staff with Cold Snap Outdoors, on how to spend a safe day on the lake.
Make sure you have safe ice.
“I have my bar… it has a chisel end. And when I step on the ice, I’m going to hit the ice,” explains Bussel. “If the bar breaks in two hits or less, then I know it’s not thick enough to go on. We’ll do it every time we get on the ice during the early ice, every time we get on the ice during the late ice, every time we get on a new body of water in the middle of the season, it doesn’t matter if there’s a foot and a half of ice and there are vehicles driving on it; we’re going to take the paw.”
You have ice spikes on your person.
“Every ice fishing trip starts and ends with the spikes you see hanging around my neck,” adds Bussell. “This flotation suit I’m wearing provides great buoyancy if I were to fall into the water, but it’s only going to keep me afloat. It’s not going to help me get out of the water. So those ice spikes are where it all starts.” .
Wear ice patches.
The ice is slippery. After all, it’s ice, even if there’s a little snow on top, as Bussell explains.
“SLips, trips and falls are something we want to avoid, we want to avoid hurting ourselves while we’re out here, so we’ll have some good patches of ice to give us some traction.”
Check the thickness as you go.
“We’ve got multiple holes out there. We’re going to drill, we’re going to check the thickness. We’re going to drill, we’re going to check the thickness. And the reason for that is every body of water is different,” says Bussell. “The dynamic is different. You have water clarity, which plays an important role in ice thickness. You have current, you have underwater springs. You have places that get a lot of sun and places that don’t get a lot of sun and they all conspire to make the ice a little bit inconsistent in a lot of places.”
Watch for changes in the ice.
They can indicate weaker areas or just points that can cause a trip.
“WWe’ll keep an eye out for pressure ridges and things like that. A pressure ridge can rise, it can sink below. So we’ll be keeping an eye on those things,” adds Bussell.
Bring ropes and an ice throwing bag.
“If one of us went into the water, someone could throw this launch bag to the person in the water and help them out,” explains Bussell.
Bring a change of clothes.
If you fall, you’ll want to dry off quickly, but Bussell says don’t take them onto the ice with you!
“In the vehicle, we have dry bags with dry clothes so if we get wet we can change.”
Let a friend or family member know where you’re going.
Bussell says communication is a key part of safety.
“WWe have a plan, we’ve talked about what we’re going to do. We let people know where we’ll be, how long we plan to be here, when we plan to leave, we’ll communicate.”