Don’t Be Too Seasoned to Review Ice Safety
This year’s predictions for ice fishing Lake of the Woods are most excellent. Driven by a healthy population of walleyes and saugers, ice anglers are chomping at the bit to get on the ice. Ice safety first has to be the message and constantly in the forefront of any ice fishing adventure. As we approach a new ice season, there are some ideas that overall will lead to safer experience up at Lake of the Woods. Here are just a few things to keep in mind when thinking ice safety.
- Work through a resort or outfitter. It sure is nice to be able to head out ice fishing via an ice road, snowmobile or resort ice transportation. In many cases, people don’t realize all of the behind the scenes work that takes place to make sure visitors are safe. Ice workers are constantly monitoring the ice thickness and ice conditions. Ice roads are driven each morning. If there are problem areas that can occur in the ice, the resort either adds bridges or re-routes for safety. Resort ice workers are constantly monitoring, plowing and repairing ice and considering ice safety for their guests. Staying on the trail is your best bet. If you decide to venture out on your own, be sure to know the ice conditions first.
- Be Prepared: Ice picks. They aren’t expensive and if the unthinkable would ever happen, could save your life or if someone else if you would toss them to someone else in distress. When people have fallen through the ice, one of the challenges is getting out of the water. The ice is wet and slippery. Picks allow someone to dig in and get a grip when pulling themselves out. Please, invest in a pair this week. If they don’t benefit you, perhaps someone else.
- Markings. When following a marked trail on the ice, double flags mean caution ahead, such as a big ice chunk, crack to avoid, etc. On snowmobile trails you might actually see a caution sign. Trails in good condition are marked with single stakes or flags. If you are ever in doubt, feel free to ask.
- Who to contact in the event of an emergency. If you ever experience a situation in which you or someone else is in need of help, your first call should be 911. This call is routed to professionals who have an entire list of agencies and resorts for that matter who may be able to help. Resorts often times are right in the middle of assisting with emergencies, medial or otherwise. With this being said, your first call should be 911.
- Be Prepared: cell phone. When you venture out on the ice, it is a good idea to have your cell phone charged up. Some people will actually carry the small portable battery packs that can plug into most cell phones for a good charge. Remember if you are out of cell range, a text can sometimes get through.
- Be Prepared: Clothing. A good rule of thumb is to be over prepared. If you are venturing out on a snowmobile, in your car or even with a resort, having warm clothing, a hat and gloves can be crucial in the event of a breakdown, snow storm or other situation that can occur. The boy scout motto, “Always be prepared”.
- Be Prepared: Vehicle. Whether you are traveling up to Lake of the Woods or headed out on the lake, it is a good idea to have your gas tank above a half a tank. This will help with extreme freezing temps and if you would happen to run off of the road while driving. Other good items to have are a tow strap, jumper cables, and a shovel.
- Be Prepared: Snowmobile. In general, it is a good idea to keep you sled tuned up and in good working condition. Have plenty of fuel, an extra belt (know how to change it), have safety materials in the storage compartment. Some people will carry a rope along for a rescue situation or even a tow. Some anglers who use sleds invest in a Nebulus. In the event you sled goes through the ice, this device is attached to your machine and has a pull cord which inflates a raft. This raft can save you and keep your machine from going to the bottom of the lake or river.
- Be Prepared: GPS. A GPS whether in your car or a handheld version can be handy. I like to turn it on when leaving shore so I create a plot line from shore to where I am headed on the ice. In the event of a whiteout, you will be able to follow your plot line back which will help to stay on the ice road or trail you came out of and obviously get you safely home. If conditions are extreme and you are in a fish house with ample heat, it is a good idea to stay put until the weather clears. Contact a resort or someone to communicate your whereabouts and game plan. In some cases, resorts may be able to assist.
- Don’t take chances. There is always someone who is the first one to walk out, take out an ATV or drive a vehicle. Let the resorts who are trained, who are on the ice daily and have years of experience guide you in what can be used and what is too heavy for the ice conditions.
A big thank you to all of the resorts, ice workers, various agencies around Lake of the Woods including the police departments, fire fighters, local sheriff departments, the MN Highway Patrol, Coast Guard, Border Patrol, U. S. Customs, Canada Border Services Agency, MN DNR, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Valley Med Flight and anyone else who helps with ice safety and has ever assisted or is willing to assist in an emergency situation.
This quick video will give you an idea of near white out conditions and how the wind can whip up on the ice of Lake of the Woods and why it is so very important to be prepared, have the right equipment and have a plan of action while on the ice.
This year is expected to be an excellent year of ice fishing. Let’s think ice safety first, walleyes second!