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Best Ice Safety Picks for Fishing: Essential Equipment for Self-Rescue

Written by: Pete D
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Hard-water angling gets in your blood and stays there.

For some anglers, watching leaves turn gold and copper as the days grow shorter doesn’t signal the end of the fishing season but rather the beginning, for whom freezing temperatures and blowing snow just mean good ice.

If you’re a die-hard ice fisherman, or if you’re just starting your journey in the sport, you need to keep safety in the forefront of your mind. Fishing on the ice involves inherent risk, as the combination of freezing air and frigid water can add up to hypothermia and death in just minutes.

We’ve written about ice fishing safety before, and we strongly recommend that you read this article carefully. It could save your life:

Ice Fishing Safety: Tips You Should Never Ignore

Ice fishing picks are essential, life-saving gear, and self-recovery is often a must when the worst happens. We take these reviews very seriously, and we simply won’t budge on quality or compromise on effectiveness here. That’s why you’ll only find two products on our shortlist.

Quick glance at the best ice fishing picks:

Related:

Best Ice Fishing Picks Reviewed

Frabill Deluxe Retractable Ice Picks

Frabill Deluxe Retractable Ice Picks

Amazon 

Frabill’s Deluxe Retractable Ice Picks are the gold standard for self-rescue.

The handles are lightweight and easy to grip, as well as being a bright yellow color that stands out if you need to see them. The retractable spike covers protect you and your expensive fishing clothing from the sharp tips but slide back easily when you drive them into the ice. And the long, stretchy cable lets you wear these spikes down each sleeve, putting the spike right where you need it in an emergency.

Pros:

  • Bright color
  • Easy to grip
  • Covered spikes
  • Designed to be worn down each arm

Cons:

  • ???

Pick-of-Life Ice Awls

Pick-of-Life Ice Awls

Amazon 

Pick-of-Life’s Ice Awls are another excellent product that can save your life in an emergency.

Bright safety orange, these really stand out against the snow. The handles are easy to grip, and like the Frabill Deluxe, the spikes are covered by a retractable sleeve that protects you and your gear from their very sharp points.

They’re attached via a long cord and designed to be worn down each sleeve of your coat for immediate access.

Pros:

  • Bright color
  • Easy to grip
  • Covered spikes
  • Designed to be worn down each arm

Cons:

  • ???

How to Use Ice Picks to Self-Rescue

Remember: the ice picks in your truck or shelter don’t do you any good!

Always wear your picks around your neck and run the cables down each sleeve to provide immediate access to your picks.

If the ice breaks under you, dumping you into cold water, it will probably induce panic as an involuntary response.

According to experts at IFLScience, you can expect a sudden shock as your body hits the water. “Your body’s physiological response is to go into what is called “cold water shock". The shock causes your respiration rate, heart rate, and blood pressure to increase dramatically, which can cause ventricular fibrillation and cardiac arrest – basically sudden death.”

The first thing you need to do is slow your breathing down. You’ve got time before hypothermia sets in, and a clear head can save your life.

When you’ve got control over the situation again, get your ice picks in each hand and rescue yourself.

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Ice Fishing Pick Buying Guide

Safety and self-rescue aren’t things to take lightly.

You may never need to pull yourself out of the water, and if not, count yourself lucky. But if the worst does happen, you need to have the right equipment to save your life.

Bright Colors

Ideally, you’re wearing your ice picks as you should be. But having an extra pair around is never a bad idea, and you may need to help someone else on the ice.

Finding safety gear quickly necessitates bright, contrasting colors like safety yellow and orange.

Black handles just won’t cut it for life-saving gear.

Good handles

The handles on ice picks need to provide enough grip to really pull yourself up onto the ice.

Obviously, they need to be sturdy enough for the task and shaped to be easy to use, no matter how you manage to grip them.

If you look carefully at these handles, you'll notice that they can only be used in one orientation.

“Cool” features like finger grooves mean that the pick is really only useful when gripped the right way. 

That’s a no-go.

You want round handles that let you grab and use them any way you can.

Sharp spikes

The spikes on your safety pick need to be sharp enough to penetrate the ice with less-than-ideal force.

Retractable covers

Since the spikes need to be very sharp to work well, they need to be covered to prevent you from tearing your hands or your clothes to shreds.

I like everything about these Eagle Claws except the exposed spikes.

Retractable covers are a must for sharp ice picks.

Final Thoughts

Both the Frabill Deluxe Retractable Ice Picks and Pick-of-Life’s Ice Awls offer everything you need in a safety pick for self-recovery.

We wouldn’t recommend any product we wouldn’t expend on ourselves, and I’d take either of these out on the ice.

As always, we hope we helped you learn something, but if you have any questions or concerns, we’re here to answer them.

Please leave a comment below.

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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