This ice safety gear could save your life

By Julie Harris, Bangor Daily News Staff

With the quality and thickness of ice on Maine’s lakes and ponds being unreliable this year, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the worst when you go ice fishing.

The best idea is to not go through the ice, but if you do, here is some equipment that could increase your chances of survival.

The most basic equipment is ice safety picks. The apparatus usually consists of two handles with picks sticking out of the ends, looking much like a pair of screwdrivers. The two handles are connected by a rope or cable, making it possible to wear them around your neck while you fish.

These picks can be retractable or fixed, and some are made by companies that specialize in fishing gear.

The idea is that if you fall through the ice, you can hold one in each hand, stick the picks in the ice and use them for leverage to help you pull yourself out of the freezing water.

There are several variations of these on the market, and the simplest versions cost less than $10. One fisherman in a social media chat group said he carries screwdrivers that float, just for this purpose.

Having the right clothing while ice fishing can help too. Most people bundle up with multiple layers of warm and often bulky clothing. That’s great protection against the cold and wind — if you are on the right side of the ice.

That same protective clothing can fill with water and drag you to the bottom of a lake or pond if you fall through the ice. 

Several manufacturers make ice fishing clothing that floats. The clothing can be separates that include pants or bibbed overalls and a jacket, or they can be one piece and look similar to an astronaut’s suit. 

The separate pieces of clothing are fairly inexpensive, not costing more than a good winter coat. The one-piece floating suit can cost upward of $1,000. Of course, the price depends on the retailer.

Ice rescue experts have other equipment recommendations too that include a whistle to get the attention of other fishermen, a throw bag containing several feet of floatable rope that a fishing partner can use to help pull you out of the water and either traditional or inflatable personal flotation devices.

Safety equipment for heading onto a frozen lake or pond includes ice cleats, which come in multiple designs and should fit your boots well, a compass and a long-handled chisel with a wrist strap to chop holes as you go to check ice depth.

The wrist strap keeps you from losing your ice chisel if you lose your grip on it.

It’s also a good idea to have a thermos of hot soup or drink, a blanket or extra clothes and a shelter with a portable heater to minimize chances of hypothermia.

And one of the most important pieces of advice from rescuers is to make sure someone knows where you are and when you plan to return. That is standard advice for any outdoor adventure.

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.