|Ice fishermen enjoy an afternoon of angling action last weekend at Scofield Reservoir. Although the winter sport attracts thousands of fishermen to Utah waterways, it can quickly become dangerous. With a few safety precautions, ice anglers can ensure that an afternoon on the ice will be a safe experience for all involved.|
With reports coming in from local anglers, the general consensus says that it is time to hit the ice for an afternoon of fishing action.
Before heading out to partake in the sport of ice fishing, anglers should gather up the necessary emergency gear and be prepared for any problems which may arise unexpectedly.
It is recommended that the following equipment should be brought along and easily accessible during any ice fishing adventure.
A pair of homemade or store bought ice picks. Even a pair of screwdrivers could substitute for ice picks. Be sure that these objects have wooden handles so that if they happen to fall into the water, they will not go straight to the bottom of the waterway.
A life jacket or float coat will provide excellent flotation and protection from hypothermia. Never wear a life jacket if traveling in an enclosed vehicle which is traveling across a frozen lake or reservoir. It could hamper escape in case of a breakthrough.
Cellular phones should be brought along if available. A phone could prove to be vital in any emergency situation.
Once these items are gathered, it is time to head out to a frozen waterway for a day of winter fishing.
Some important tips which may ensure that an accident does not occur include the following:
Wait to walk out on the ice until there are at least four inches of clear, solid ice. Thinner ice will support one person, but since ice thickness can vary considerably, especially at the beginning and end of the season, four inches will provide a margin of safety.
Some factors that can change ice thickness include flocks of waterfowl and schools of fish. By congregating in a small area, fish can cause warmer water from the bottom towards the surface, weakening or in some cases opening large holes in the ice.
Go out with a friend and keep a good distance apart while walking out to the fishing destination. If one person goes through the ice, the other can then call for help and attempt a rescue with a rope and survival gear.
Avoid driving on the ice whenever possible. Traveling in a vehicle, especially early or late in the season is an accident waiting to happen. Most ice fatalities that occur involve a vehicle.
If it is necessary to drive across the ice, be prepared to bail out quickly if necessary. It is a good idea to drive across the ice without the seatbelt fastened and the doors ajar which will allow an easy escape.
Move the vehicle frequently. Parking in one place for a long period weakens the ice.
Also, don't park near cracks and watch out for pressure ridges or ice heaves.
Don't drive across ice at night or when it is snowing. Reduced visibility increases the chances of driving into an open or weak ice area.
Avoid areas which are marked as being aerated. At these locations, small holes have been formed in the ice to provide oxygen for the fish. The ice can be weakened many yards beyond this point, so stay well outside the fenced areas which are usually indicated by signs.
Now that all the safety gear is in place and anglers know the do's and dont's of ice fishing, it is time to hit the ice.
So, as the angler is walking out onto the ice and a crack, followed by a break is heard. It's too late, the angler is now immersed in freezing cold water.
If one ever finds themself trapped in a freezing waterway, try to stay calm and turn toward the direction in which was traveled to reach the current location. This is when the subject should place their hand and arms on the unbroken surface of the ice. If ice picks are handy, use them now.
Work forward on the ice by kicking. If the ice breaks, maintain a position and slide forward again.
Once lying on the ice, don't stand up. Instead, roll away from the hole. This spreads one's body weight until they are on solid ice.
This all sounds a lot easier than it really is, so the best thing is to avoid dangerous situations.
If an angler happens to fall in the water, it is important to seek proper medical care following the ordeal. Frostbite or hypothermia may set in quickly.
Frostbite occurs when the skin and tissues begins to freeze. This can be easily remedied if detected in the early stages, or it can be severe enough to require amputation of the affected area.
Symptoms become apparent when the skin turns waxy white to yellow and is hard and cold to the touch. Toes, fingers, nose, ears and cheeks are the most vulnerable.
If frostbite is suspected, warm the affected area by pressing it against a warm part of the body or immerse in lukewarm water. Excessively hot water will damage the fragile tissue.
Rubbing a frostbitten area in the more advanced stages will also cause damage.
Tobacco products should also be avoided because nicotine will restrict vital blood circulation.
Most importantly, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Despite all the precautions that anglers take, a few go through the ice each year and all ice anglers should know something about rescue techniques and first aid for hypothermia.
Drowning is one immediate danger, but usually the victims are able to keep their heads above water by clinging to the edge of the broken ice or to floating gear.
Most fatalities from a fall into a frozen waterway occur due to hypothermia. This is caused when the body begins to lose heat faster than it can produce it.
The symptoms become apparent and include uncontrollable shivering, slow or slurred speech, incoherence, fumbling hands, stumbling, apparent exhaustion, drowsiness which causes loss of the use of limbs, disorientation, unconsciousness and even heart failure.
If a person shows any signs of overexposure to cold or wet and windy weather, take the following measures even if the person claims to have no difficulties. Often times, the person will not realize the seriousness of the situation.
Seek a dry and heated location where the victim may find an escape from the harsh winter weather.
Get the victim into dry clothing with a warm, never hot, water bottle while concentrating on the torso.
Supply warm drinks.
Keep the head low and the feet up to get warm blood circulating to the head.
Insulate the victim's trunk, head and neck from additional heat loss.
Under no circumstances should the victim be given alcoholic beverages. Alcohol will diminish shivering, thus reducing heat production and it will also cause dilation of surface blood vessels which will cause more heat loss.
Avoid pain relievers which will slow body metabolism.
Summon a vehicle to get to shore and arrange medical help.
Fortunately, rescue and first aid are very seldom necessary while ice fishing. However, since the sport is constantly attracting newcomers and even veterans are subject to occasional human error, it is best that anglers be prepared for any unexpected situation and learn emergency measures even though they may never have to apply them.