Ice fishing season is just around the corner and for some northern Iowa residents it may already have kicked off. As a reminder to all of us, while ice fishing is an enjoyable sport it can be dangerous and all anglers that step foot on the ice this year should be aware of the dangers ice can pose.

Below are some tips to follow to help ensure a safe ice-fishing season:

Always check the ice depth before entering on to the ice. No matter if you are walking or have a vehicle check the ice for its depth and use the guide in this article to determine if the ice is safe enough for walking or driving on.

It’s important to know the body of water that you are fishing on. Ice forms differently on bodies of water based on a number of factors. Water current, wind patterns, precipitation, shoreline vegetation, spring fed lakes/ponds, and temperature are a few variables that affect ice conditions. Remember that conditions change from pond to pond or lake to lake so familiarize your self with the bodies of water you fish on to help determine where ice depths are navigable.

Drive cautiously one ice no matter if you are using a snowmobile, ATV, or automobile. Most accidents involving vehicles happen when the driver is going too fast to see a break in the ice. Take it slow and keep your eyes peeled for open ice and for other anglers as well. Also when parking heavier vehicles make sure and park them at least 50 feet from any other vehicle in the area. Park away from cracks, pressure ridges, and ice heaves. Also it is a good idea to move your vehicle periodically as the weight of your truck can weaken the ice around it.

*Some experts say that in order to bail out of a car quicker in the event your vehicle breaks through the ice that it is wise to have your seatbelt unbuckled and your window down.

Footwear and walking on ice is important. Make sure to have good tread on your boots. Purchasing ice cleats is a good idea that will provide extra grip and tread to your boots. When walking around take it slow and walk with a wider gait, falling on ice is unforgiving and can lead to serious injury and ruin the rest of your season and in some cases have a life long lasting affect.

Know what to do if either yourself or someone else has fallen through the ice. The number one thing to remember is to remain calm. A clear mind is a must when dealing with ice water emergencies. For a complete list of what you should do refer to the sidebar in this article.

If you are on the ice by yourself it is important to notify someone of where you are. While the person you notify won’t necessarily be able to get you out of the ice they will be able to help get people to your location faster than you will. A cell phone is a must nowadays and keeping it where it will stay dry is even more important. If you’re clothing allows keep a phone in your chest pocket. This will make it easier for you to get to and hopefully keep it dry if you fall on or through the ice.

Make sure and have proper safety equipment with you when you are on the ice.
Throw rope
Hand held ice picks
Emergency blanket
Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
Set of spare warm clothes
First aid kit

Lastly remember this simple phrase when on the ice this year: “There is no such thing as safe ice!” Always be cautious and aware of your surrounding when you are on the ice.

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What to do if you fall through the ice?

Stay calm!
Don’t remove any clothing.
Place your hands and arms on the sturdy unbroken ice around the hole you fell into.
Kick your feet and use your ice picks (all ice anglers should have a pair of picks on them) to pull yourself onto solid ice. If you do not have ice picks use your elbows to pull yourself out of the hole.
Lie flat on the ice once you are on solid ground and roll away from the hole to keep your weight evenly distributed from the hole.
Get warm and dry immediately. Seek out a dry shelter and remove your wet clothing as soon as possible. In severe cases of hypothermia seek medical attention as the shock of the cold blood can lead to heart failure.

Lastly remember this simple phrase: “There is no such thing as safe ice!” Play it safe and know the ice conditions on the lake you are fishing. Have a great hard water season!