It’s January, and winter is fully upon us. The lakes around Atlantic Canada are already either fully encased in a thin layer of ice, or will be soon. Anglers across the East Coast are busy prepping augers and ice rods, checking fish finder batteries and sharpening hooks on their jigging raps. And hopefully, the majority of anglers are putting a pair of ice picks into the pile of winter ready gear. The obvious reason for considering ice picks as an essential piece of ice fishing gear is their safety benefits. Any angler who has unfortunately found themselves on the wrong side of a frozen lake would no doubt benefit from a set of ice picks around their necks to help them get back on the dry side of the ice. They can be a life saver, that’s reason enough to consider carrying ice picks.
However, looking past the obvious benefits of ice picks as a safety tool we should consider the mindset of any angler that intends to go out ice fishing, and ice picks are a reflection of an angler that has considered their own safety prior to venturing out for a day of ice fishing. Ice fishing in early and late seasons can put an angler at risk if they are not aware of and familiar with ice conditions and what creates a safe ice surface. Every single angler should be checking ice thickness, weather conditions, and have a series of options for keeping safe under all scenarios including the potential of falling through the ice. An ice chisel, Floater suit, lifejacket, ropes to shore, and ice picks should be on the mind of any angler walking out on the ice for the first and every time they head out during the ice fishing season. Ice picks are one of the many options for staying safe, but they are also the easiest, cheapest option for demonstrating that you are considering your safety as part of your ice fishing preparations, and one you could and should carry no matter how thick the ice is. There’s no reason to carry all of these safety items all of the time, but make sure you carry the correct ones for each situation you encounter through the season. Ice fishing can be a very enjoyable and very safe pastime winter pastime, but it’s up to you as an angler to make sure that it will be safe for you on any particular day and that you’re equipped for any scenario you may encounter.
It doesn’t matter if you are fishing on a popular stocked trout pond in the middle of the city, or a secluded back-woods lake with minimal traffic and getting away from the crowds. When you go out ice fishing your safety is in your own hands. Do not be careless about ice thickness. Do not ignore hazardous conditions like moving water. Do not rely on other anglers or rescue personnel to get you out of a situation that you should not have been in the first place. Enjoy your ice fishing season to the fullest, but put yours and others safety first when you’re preparing your equipment, and when you’re heading to the frozen lakes for the first time. No fish is worth your life.
Have a safe and productive ice fishing season, and don’t forget those ice picks!
– Ryan Anderson