As the first snowfall of 2015 began to come down in Southern Wisconsin, it dawned on me that we are only a few weeks from the best panfish bite all winter.

jordan with crappieWith that in mind, we all should take a few minutes to consider a few additional safety measures before you go out on the hard water this season. There have been some innovative ideas over the past few years that are helping ice fishermen return home and stay dry.  Let’s review some of the ole’ fashioned and innovative devices every ice fisherman should consider having the first few trips out!

The Spud Bar

ice fisherman with spud bar
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This effective little tool has long been the first measure of ice safety.   I will typically carry one for the first few weeks of the season and use it as my first line of defense.  Simply hit the ice with a single thrust to see how thick the ice is in that spot.  If it cracks, spiders, or goes through like butter you may want to rethink your trip out!  Repeat this process every few feet during your walk out to your fishing spot.  You may also want to walk the perimeter or area you will be cutting holes to ensure a dry day.

Life Vest/PFD

ice fishing pfdIt may seem odd to wear a life vest out ice fishing, but it will save your life the same as it would if you were to fall out of a boat.  The main purpose is to keep you from getting trapped under the ice AND from sinking.  A small, around the waist PFD can be a great solution to drowning.  It also will keep your mother and grandmother happy on those 2’’ of ice days…

Ice Picks

ice picksThese handy little tools will be the lifesaver if you do happen to fall in!  Typically worn around the neck, ice picks are great resources to help climb out of the literal and figurative hole you are in. (See what I did there!)  The main reason to keep them around your neck is to have quick access to them when walking around. The sharp ends will punch into the ice and help create something to grip while getting back on to firm land.  While climbing out be sure to try and distribute your weight to keep from crashing back through.

Floating Ice Suit

clam outdoors ice armour lift suitOne of the coolest innovations on the ice fishing market is the floating ice suit.  Clam Outdoors makes a suit called IceArmor Lift that is designed to be a warm fishing suit AND a buoyancy feature in the case that you fall through.  It is also wind and waterproof to keep you warm in the cold, winter elements.  This eases my nerves since I am always afraid that a bulky suit could become a waterlogged nightmare if you do not get out of the water fast enough.

Additional Ideas to Consider:

  • Use a buddy system
  • Use a hand auger to decrease weight
  • Carry 100 ft. of rope to throw to a fisherman in distress
  • Leave additional gear on shore to lessen weight and decrease noise to hear cracking
  • Use cleats to avoid slipping and crashing through the ice