Ice fishing, by nature, can be a risky endeavor. Some tell you four inches of ice is safe, while others swear by at least 6 inches. Aside from the ice’s depth, there’s the unpredictable weather of the winter season, which can bring snow one day and balmy rain the next, depending on where you live.
With this in mind, ice anglers would do well to minimize the risks associated with ice fishing by taking care not to commit a few common blunders. Here are five ice fishing mistakes you’re smart enough to avoid.
No Safety Gear
It’s shocking to me how many anglers head to the ice without proper safety gear. This means ice picks, which won’t cost you more than $10, and even a personal floatation device should the worst happen and you fall through the ice. If you’re a regular visitor to the ice, I suggest investing in a quality PFD designed for the activity, like the Frabill I-Float jacket, which is a self-draining layer that also includes ice picks that fit into built-in holsters to ensure they’re always within reach.
Advertising Your Best Spots
Drilling a hole creates a mound of ice shavings that pretty much serves as a bright sign that shows others where to find fish. To prevent honey-hole hunters from over-fishing when you’re not around, these piles of ice around your drilled holes should be kicked down and leveled off before they freeze over. Leveling these ice shards before they freeze also keeps the ice safe for others, as they can prove dangerous for ATV and snowmobiles making their way across the ice.
Drilling Too Many Holes
A big mistake many ice anglers make is drilling too many holes in search of fish. The technology available to anglers these days, however, makes it possible to get on the fish with only a few holes drilled. By doing a bit of homework beforehand, anglers can study lake maps to discern points, ledges and deep holes. Do this and you’ll be better equipped to find the best spots without having to drill dozens of holes to do so.
Slush is Good
When you’re done drilling a hole, it can be tempting to scoop out all of the floating slush in an attempt to get a clear view into the water. It’s better to leave the slush where it is, though, because it stops light penetration. Too much light that finds its way to the drilled hole scares fish. Resist the urge to clean and leave a little slush to better your odds.
Layers Are Your Friends
One big mistake many ice anglers make is over-dressing for the occasion. If you’ve invested in the right clothes, you’ll find that their craftsmanship and technology is more than capable of handling the task. Warm clothes are a must, but the last thing you want to be so hot that you sweat. When this happens, most will remove their outer layers, which is worse when the sweat starts to cool on your body. Better to dress in layers or open the vents on your outerwear to let heat escape.