Freezing up opens up very special opportunities for anglers, therefore they are waiting for it with such impatience, they are in such a hurry to go out on young ice. At the same time, it is often forgotten that absolutely reliable ice does not exist in nature.
This must be remembered everywhere and always: on a frozen pond and river, lake and sea bay, from freezing up to melting ice. Special foresight is needed on autumn and spring ice. And although, of course, there is no such force that will force you to abandon fishing on the first and last ice, you should not allow excitement to suppress reasonable caution.
- Before entering young ice, it is necessary to determine its thickness. Attempting to do this with a kick easily results in bathing. It is best to test the ice with a sharp ice pick: if it breaks through with one or two blows, then you cannot move on. Young and clean, that is not snow-covered, ice 7 cm thick can be considered safe. True, many people fish from 5-cm ice, but this is still a risky activity. Even the 7 cm thick ice holds only one angler quite reliably. On such ice, you should not gather several people in one place – you must maintain a distance of at least 5 meters. Ice usually acquires a sufficient safety margin only when it grows to 10 cm. It is extremely undesirable to go out on young ice alone, especially on an unfamiliar body of water.
- When moving on young ice, it is constantly checked with an ice pick. In general, on young ice, an ice drill is preferable to an ice screw, since it allows you to determine the thickness in front of you, and not under your feet. On a lake or reservoir, this can be done every 10-15 steps, but on a river, especially when moving from the shore across the stream, checks should be much more frequent. A fishing box or backpack should be carried on one shoulder in order to be able to quickly free up if necessary.
- On the first ice they walk with a sliding step, without lifting the soles from the surface. Crackling – immediate stop. The appearance of straight-line cracks is usually not so dangerous, but if a cobweb of ring cracks has begun to appear under the foot, it means that the ice is ready to break. In this case, you must immediately lie down in order to reduce the load on the ice, and crawl back in the direction of your movement.
- The reliability of ice depends not only on the thickness, but also on the conditions of its formation. In calm and snowless weather, an even, completely transparent, so-called “black” ice rises. If during the freeze-up it snows or a strong wind blows, then the ice is formed heterogeneous, whitish; its strength is less than that of transparent. Snowy ice builds up more slowly, it is less strong than pure ice.
- In addition to the thickness and presence of snow cover, many other things affect the strength of the ice: the overall dimensions of the reservoir, the depth of the water under the ice, the strength of the current, the air temperature, and so on. Ice is always thinner and weaker in the current, above the springs, at the confluence of tributaries, near reeds and flooded willows, in areas with frozen aquatic vegetation, near bridge supports and with piles and snags sticking out of the water. The strength of ice, especially fragile ice, can significantly decrease with an increase in air temperature and precipitation, and not only rain, but also heavy snowfall.
- There is only one 100% reliable way not to fall under the ice: do not go out on it at all. In all other cases, there is simply no full guarantee against this unpleasant or even fatal accident. Therefore, you need to clearly represent your actions in the event that you failed yourself or another fisherman was unlucky. The most important condition for a successful outcome is not to panic in order to maintain the ability to correctly assess the situation, to act prudently and quickly.
- If one leg has gone under the ice, you need to roll on your side back or to the side, but not forward – there the ice may also be unreliable. After that, pull out your leg and crawl or roll away from the dangerous place. A quick reaction often helps to avoid complete bathing, even when both legs fall through. In this case, you have to fall backwards with your arms outstretched to distribute the load.
- Having failed entirely, it is necessary to act as quickly as possible, until the clothes and shoes have collected water, and the air retained in them keeps afloat. Ice awls, or “lifeguards”, will help you get out onto hard ice: two handles connected by a strong cord with a short sharp spike at the end. They are easy to make yourself, but you can buy them in the store. So that the lifeguards are always at hand, the cord is put on the neck, and the handles themselves are removed, for example, in breast pockets.
- First of all, you need to turn your face in the direction of your move – after all, it was quite reliable there. On the river, so as not to be dragged under the ice, they get out against the current. Throwing your hands as far as possible on the ice, you need to try to push the body with jerks of your legs, then throw your legs. Lifeguards will help not only stay on the ice, but also pull yourself forward on your hands. If the ice breaks under the weight of the body, you will have to start all over again. Having got out completely, you cannot get up, otherwise you can again find yourself in the water: you have to crawl away or roll away from the edge of the breach. Anyone who has done this at least once knows that in words everything looks quite simple, but in fact it can require extreme physical and psychological efforts.
- Winter clothing and footwear used by most of our anglers are capable of collecting and holding up to 20 liters or more of water. Getting out on your own, especially smooth and slippery ice with an additional weight of 20-30 kilograms, is not an easy task even for a strong person. Therefore, when choosing clothes and shoes for winter fishing, it is worth considering that they collect water as little as possible, or at least do it as slowly as possible. There are, however, special waterproof winter suits that can keep a person afloat, but they are expensive, and only a few use them. An ordinary life jacket will also be of great help.
- When another fisherman has fallen under the ice, you cannot rush to the rescue rashly, otherwise you can keep him company. For such cases, it is necessary to have a strong rope 10-15 m long with a loop at one end and a weight for casting at the other. If the person who has failed himself has a rope, he should put the loop on his hand and throw the other end as far as possible. Instead of a special rope, you can use a tow rope from a car, an ice pick with a strap from a fishing box attached to it, and so on. It is necessary to approach the breach with extreme caution, crawling if necessary.
- Having got out after swimming on the ice, you need to take all measures against hypothermia and frostbite: wring out your clothes, change at least your underwear and be in a warm room or in a car with a working stove as soon as possible.
- On large bodies of water, in order to avoid wasting time on crossings, snowmobile equipment and vehicles are often used to move on the strengthened ice. The minimum safe ice thickness for a snowmobile is 12 cm, for a car – at least 20 cm.
- When driving on ice, everyone in the car must clearly understand how they should act in the event of a threat to the car leaving the ice. It is extremely rare to get out of the car after a dive, especially in thick winter clothes that restrain movement. In three-door cars, for example, in the short “Niva”, our most widespread SUV, there should be only a driver and one passenger, since people in the back seat are practically doomed to leave the car under the ice.
- The winter day is short, and trying to extend the fishing time, they often go to the ice after dark, and even return in the dark. It is often not taken into account that the braking distance on ice can exceed the distance of reliable visibility in the headlights. Then, even having noticed the danger – a wormwood, a crack, water protruding onto the ice, it is simply impossible to stop in time. Therefore, the speed of movement must correspond to the distance of the illuminated path and the efficiency of braking. The danger of driving on ice in a car is greatly increased during snowfall, which impairs visibility and hides dangers on ice.
Almost all the stories of ice fishing with a bad ending are a consequence of, as a rule, three main reasons: an ineradicable tendency to rely on “maybe”, panic and, finally, love to take “for warmth”, “for the first ice” and other good reasons.
Alcohol gives the illusion of warmth only for a short time, and then only intensifies the feeling of cold. But worst of all, alcohol easily leads to a state of blissful carelessness and deprives you of the ability to instantly make the right decisions that can save your life.
Therefore, we must take it as a rule: never to warm up on ice with any strong drinks. Doing this after fishing is no less pleasant.