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What to Do if You Fall Through the Ice While Fishing

No matter how careful you are while ice fishing, accidents happen. Because ice can be unpredictable, you always need to be prepared when you go ice fishing in case you find yourself in cold water.  When you head out on the ice, there are a few precautionary measures you should take to make sure you don’t fall through the ice while fishing.

Precautionary steps to help you stay safe while ice fishing:

  • Do not fish alone
  • Check the weather and ice conditions before heading out
  • Wear a PFD (personal flotation device) or floating ice fishing suit
  • Check the ice thickness 
  • Notify someone of your fishing plans
  • Carry safety gear like a spud bar or safety spikes

What to do if you fall through the ice while fishing

  1. Stay calm. Take a deep breath and try to control your breathing.
  2. Turn to the direction you came and grab the ice.
  3. Using any sharp equipment you have, get a strong grip on the ice. This is where ice safety spikes or “ice picks” are very useful.
  4. Kick with your feet as you pull yourself onto the ice.
  5. Once you are out of the water, roll away from where you fell through. Remember, this should be in the direction you were first traveling from.
  6. Once you get away from the weak ice, you can stand up.

Once you are out of the water and safe, it is critical that you get dry and warm before hypothermia kicks in. Find a warm shelter, start a fire, dry off as quickly as possible and change into dry clothing. Also, be sure to drink warm liquids. If you cannot warm up, get to the nearest hospital for help.

What to do if someone else falls through the ice while fishing

If someone you are with falls through the ice while fishing, help them through the steps above. Do not run to grab them, because you will both end up in the water. If they are struggling to pull themselves out, look for the longest item you have with you. Extend one end to them and pull. If you have nothing to use, but there are others nearby, form a human chain. Be sure to help them get medical attention if needed.

Bottom line:  A little planning and preparation can keep you safe while you are ice fishing.

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