Outdoors column: First ice safety, alot to think about

As we head into the early ice period here in central Minnesota, we are faced with some uncertainty such as less than ideal ice conditions and unfortunately a lot of snow to boot. Lots of snow with iffy ice conditions require anglers to pay special attention to ice safety.

I have a group of items that I use through the month of December and into January that allow me to travel the ice safely and with peace of mind.

In order to land some slaps like these, make sure the conditions are safe. Submitted photo
In order to land some slaps like these, make sure the conditions are safe. Submitted photo

Here is a primer on the items:

Boot spikes

Taking a fall on the ice is no fun. You can easily break a leg or hip by falling on the glare ice and that’s why I believe ice spikes that fit over your boots are paramount. The best boot spikes feature stainless steel chains with stainless quarter-inch spikes that get you a tremendous grip on the ice.

Actually, these spikes really shine in your portable shack and the ice below you gets slick.

I wear these ice spikes throughout the entire season.

Stay away from the cheap ice spikes go with the commercial grade quality that the professional linemen use. This one item is probably the most valuable on-ice asset you can own.

Life vest

I always feel a little dumb wearing a life vest on the ice but in reality it could save your life.

I wear a large, bright vest that can be seen from long distances. If you happen to go in the lake, you will be seen by cabin people and other ice fisher people.

I wouldn’t even think about not wearing a vest especially this winter with the goofy ice conditions.

Around-the-neck screwdrivers/nails

If you have ever fallen through the ice, you know how difficult it is to raise yourself up and out of the hole.

Take two large nails and wrap a four foot long rope along the upper edges and hang those around your neck. Make sure the nails are properly stowed inside your life vest pockets.

You want them out of the way in case you fall. Once in your life vest, they are at the ready in case you have an incident. Phillips screwdrivers also work well especially the large one’s that feature a nice, heavy handle. These screwdrivers and nails allow you to pierce the ice and use the momentum to get yourself up and over the ice.


Always make sure you head out onto the ice with a buddy or wingman. This is added insurance in case you have a problem. It is always nice to have someone with you for safety reasons. I always make sure a loved one knows my exact whereabouts and the time I am supposed to return. Things can get dicey after dark as well as the pre-dawn early morning hours so precautions need to be taken.

Steve Carney is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.