About Fishing: Venture onto early ice at your own risk


Is the hype to get out on early ice senselessly putting lives in danger?

This question was posted on a popular fishing web site recently, the tragic loss of a couple lives on Red Lake still fresh in the minds of ice fisherman. The thread received over 2,500 hits with varied opinions.

"I don't think the industry, overall, hypes it up too much. They're just promoting the general activity of ice fishing. Where the problem is those that profit off it directly at a specific body of water. Resorts and guides are trying to lure in the early-ice crowd when other guides or resorts are responsible enough to not take people out and are telling people to stay off the ice," commented one angler.

Social media is a huge catalyst to putting anglers out on ice early. I see a lot of people and places trying to downplay the bad, even definite unsafe, ice conditions to get those early ice dollars flowing.

How much liability rests on their shoulders?

Should we expect resorts and guides to know safe ice areas?

Ice is never 100 percent safe. Conditions can change by the hour. The best advice: Venture out at your own risk. Take the necessary precautions yourself to ensure a safe return to the shore. Use an ice spud before each step ahead of you and wear a non-inflatable, personal flotation device or suit.

I'm not so sure it is hype as much as the desire of the fisherman. Up here in northern Minnesota some people live for ice fishing. They buy the equipment that make getting on the ice easy and comfortable and they want to use it. Couple that with the walleye and other fish willing to cooperate early in the season, slowing down as the season wears on, adds to the desire.

Social media again plays a role because as soon as there was walkable ice, you start seeing pictures and videos posted from on the ice.

Fortunately, most people fish without incident, but when it goes bad, questions arise. Could it of been prevented? Then add the element of mobility to early ice fishing activities: an ATV. When we walk out on early ice, we tend to walk out slowly. Listening and watching, we can hear and see the ice crack. That's near impossible to do when driving a ATV, even if going a slow speed. That's what happened to the young people up on Red Lake and to the Ice Team guide a few years back on Lake Superior.

Ice fishing has just become so popular. Interest tripled in recent years and is still growing. Ice fisherman, in numbers, are pushing the limits on how early they go out. Social media stimulates the interest and fuels the desire for a goal — wanting to be the first person to post pictures out on ice. Loss of life, like what has occurred on Red Lake, is painful reminder to each of us that while pursuing fishing on the ice always use caution, realize that early conditions change and be responsible for your own safety.