Earlier this year, I did a short little Facebook survey of my friends list to get a sense of what deterred women the most from ice fishing. The number one response that I received did not entirely surprise me… It was fear of being on the ice. Now this was far from being a scientific survey and it was only a small sample of Facebook friends, but thinking back to when I first started ice fishing or even the first ice I step on every year the fear is there. Rightfully so, the ice is something that needs to be respected and can be very dangerous if you do not know what you are doing.
Step one to feeling comfortable on the ice is to be knowledgeable of the body of water and the ice you will be on. I would be lying if I told you that I don’t ever get nervous being on the ice. Truthfully, I feel that there is a fine line between being nervous and just being completely aware of your surroundings. No matter how many times you have been to a spot or even if your buddies are already out there it is very important that you, yourself, are aware of the situation you may be putting yourself in and are prepared an knowledgeable to get yourself out of that situation.
For starters ask people who have already been fishing in the area what the ice conditions have been like recently. I highly recommend never fishing alone and being prepared. Aron and I always have rope in an easy to reach pocket. Rope is cheap and can be very valuable in emergency situations. We also wear our polar picks to and from sites.
This article is not meant to scare anyone. The truth is to be prepared for an emergency situation you should be aware of what situations you could potentially be in. Over the course of the season I will envision it happening and think about what steps I would take. I will mentally prepare myself. I even participated in ice rescue training so I was more prepared if myself or anyone else went through. For my job, I’m the Wildlife Biologist for the Bad River Tribe, and I am in the field by myself a lot doing various habitat projects and wildlife surveys. In the winter time I will do track surveys on the frozen rivers and survey muskrat dwellings. It is important that I am well aware of the ice conditions at all times and have everything well thought out on how to get myself out of an iffy situation.
One essential item that everyone that ventures on the ice should have is a good ice bar. Some people will also call them a “spud”. A good bar should have plenty length to it so you can constantly check the ice ahead of you and it should also have some weight to it. A good bar also has a fairly sharp tip on it. If the bar ever breaks through with one “poke” you should back track immediately and get away from that ice. A good bar in early ice conditions can also save you the hassle of bringing an ice auger if there is less than a foot of ice where you will be fishing!
Another essential to have even on somewhat warmer days is a small propane heater, to be able to warm someone up fast. We always have a small one pound cylinder with a heater head the size of my palm. It is also nice to have to take the chill off your hands if fishing without a heater or shelter throughout the day. Which leads me to step two to feeling comfortable on the ice: dress and be warm!
That sounds like a given but reason number two of my survey was getting cold! There is a lot of winter gear out there for women that is designed more for fashion then it is to keep you warm, but how do you distinguish the difference. Just because you are going ice fishing doesn’t mean you have to dress like a man. Fortunately as the woman outdoor community is getting larger our options are also expanding. First step is a pair of warm boots. Look for a pair that is water resistant and has a good thermal liner meant for below zero weather. My boots are man boots because I spend many hours on the ice and out in the cold and have not found a woman’s pair that makes the cut yet (I also have large feet).