What if I were ice fishing and fell through the ice?

Ice fishing
Ice fishing

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, approximately two million people brave freezing temperatures and frightening wind chills every winter to go ice fishing. Many of these avid anglers take to the frozen waters of the Great Lakes. In the process, they place themselves in a potentially dangerous situation. Most ice fishermen are aware of this and take many precautions to maintain safety. A few of the precautionary measures they take are:

  • Fish with a friend - ice fishing alone is never a good idea.
  • Check ahead - be aware of weather and fishing conditions before you embark on your trip
  • Wear a PFD (personal flotation device)
  • Look for an area with at least 3.5 to 4 inches of solid, clear, fresh ice
  • Notify friends and family of fishing plans
  • Carry safety gear such as augers, screwdrivers, spikes and rope

However, no matter how careful you are, accidents do happen. So what if you do fall through the ice while fishing? Basically, there are two things you need to worry about:

In all likelihood you're wearing some kind of PFD, so you shouldn't sink below the surface altogether. Your top priority is to get out of the water. Whether you're wearing a PFD or not, in water temperatures between 32.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.5 degrees Celsius), you have very little time before hypothermia will start to set in. Victims have been known to succumb to hypothermia in as little as 10 to 15 minutes. If you become hypothermic, you'll probably pass out and subsequently drown.