Safety Tips for Ice Fishers

By Sam Miller
As winter continues the PA Fish and Boat Commission reminds fishers to be safe while on the ice.
Always wear a lifejacket or float coat while on the ice. Avoid inflatable lifejackets, which do not perform well in freezing temperatures.
When arriving at the water's edge, visually survey the ice. Look for open water areas and signs of recent changes in water levels. Ice sloping down from the bank can indicate a recent drop in water level, while wet areas on the ice can indicate a rise in water level.
Listen for loud cracks or booms coming from the ice. This can be an indicator of deteriorating ice.
Look for new ice, which is clear or has a blue tint. New ice is stronger than old ice, which can appear white or gray.
Remember that ice thickness is not consistent across the surface of the lake or pond.
Beware of ice around partially submerged objects such as trees, brush, embankments or structures. Ice will not form as quickly where water is shallow or where objects may absorb heat from sunlight.
Anglers should use an ice staff to probe ahead as they walk. If the ice staff punches through, retreat to shore slowly.
Always carry a pair of ice awls, which are handheld spikes. Ice awls can assist in performing a self-rescue, in which the spikes are driven into the ice to help someone pull themselves out of the water.
Never walk on ice that has formed over moving water such as a river or stream.
Never go out on ice alone.