According to a recent Mayo Clinic study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, ice fishing is associated with more accidents, and a larger number of severe injuries than what are typically seen with traditional fishing. Fortunately, many of the injuries suffered by ice fishing victims can be prevented when the proper precautions are taken. Both participants and providers should be aware of the dangers involved to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities associated with this sport.
Common Ice Fishing Injuries
Each year, thousands of people flock to the frigid lakes of northern Minnesota to try their luck with ice fishing. Unfortunately, a significant number of ice fishermen suffer serious injuries that are often life-changing, and sometimes deadly. Some of the most common injuries associated with ice fishing include:
- Falling Through the Ice: Falling through the ice is the most feared risk among ice anglers. About 4.7 percent of people in the report were victims of falling into the freezing water or drowning. In addition to possibly becoming trapped beneath the ice, victims who are submerged in such cold water risk hypothermia, frost bite, and heart and respiratory failure.
- Burns: Although not as frequently discussed, burn injuries are about as common as submersion injuries. Many of today’s ice fishing huts are equipped with stoves, ovens and rudimentary heaters, and fishermen are at risk for contact burns, and burns caused from fires or explosions.
- Broken Bones, Sprains and Strains: About 46 percent of victims in the study suffered from broken bones, sprains and strains. Many of these injuries are caused from slips and falls due to the surface of the snow and ice that covers the ground.
- Exposure to Low Temperatures: Even when a victim hasn’t fallen into the frigid water beneath the ice, extreme low temperatures can still cause significant injuries like frost bite or hypothermia. The consumption of alcoholic beverages can actually intensify the effects of cold temperatures and raise a fisherman’s risk for injury.
Staying Safe When Ice Fishing
Taking the proper precautions and knowing what to watch out for can help prevent ice fishing injuries. Ice anglers should always dress appropriately to reduce their risk for cold temperature or frigid water-related injuries, always keep a life jacket and rope on hand, and be cautious around heating or cooking appliances. Additionally, fishermen should never ice fish alone, and keep a cell phone on hand in case of emergency.