Trying out ice fishing today? Here’s some safety tips

Submitted Photo These are some of the contestants from the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club’s annual rabbit contest. There were 17 hunters entered and 10 rabbits weighed. Nick Sheffield had the top-weighing rabbit at 2.44 lbs.

Today is part of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s free fishing days, which are offered several times during the year. With Presidents Day right around the corner, and a lot of ice cover on our surrounding bodies of water, chances are good that if you want to try your luck, you will end up going ice fishing. Here is a checklist of some safety items you will want to bring along, besides your basic ice fishing gear, like lures, buckets, ice auger, rods, line and bait.

First would be a life jacket. Bring it and wear it. If you do break through the ice, it will keep you afloat. Use ice cleats or creepers that attach to your boots. They usually consist of a rubber strap or rubber overshoes with metal teeth or spikes to provide traction so you don’t fall.

Ice chisels and safety picks: Use the ice chisel to punch a hole in the ice to make sure the ice is thick enough to be safe. You hang the ice picks around your neck (secured with a length of cord) and use them to stick in the ice if you do fall through. They will enable you to crawl out of the water. Bring along a floating rescue rope too, in case you may have to assist someone else, by throwing it to them from a safe distance.

Wear a hat and mittens. They trap a lot of your body heat. Hand warmers are a good idea and wearing sunglasses will help prevent snow blindness. Take a cell phone or radio and carry it in a water tight plastic bag for emergencies. A lot of your gear can be carried on a sled too.

If you find out you like fishing, be sure to purchase a fishing license so you can enjoy the sport the rest of the year.

A lot of the snow cover disappeared, especially in the flats, but the rabbit hunters had some success during the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club’s annual rabbit contest held on Saturday. There were 17 contestants entered this year and 10 weighed in rabbits. Nick Sheffield entered the heaviest rabbit weighing 2.44 pounds. Second place went to Jack Forbes with a 2.35 pounder and Sheffield took third place with a 2.18 pound entry. All contestants returned to the club in the afternoon for some great homemade food.

Calendar: The Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club will be hosting its annual February Chicken Barbecue on Sunday, Feb. 25. Pre-sale tickets are available at the club and proceeds go to defray the cost of the annual Take-A-Kid Fishing Day which will be held on the first Saturday in June.

Our local chapter of Ducks Unlimited will be holding its annual membership/fundraiser banquet on Feb. 24 at the Beaver Club. There are about 25 tickets left. Contact Ron Romance or any committee members soon.

The Friends of the NRA will be holding its banquet also on Feb. 24 at the American Legion Samuel Derby Post 556, located at 9 Meadow Lane, Frewsburg. Dinner is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. For more information, contact Jennifer Schmitt at 487-2487 or log on

The next gun show is on March 3-4 at Hickory Post VFW located at 5550 East State Street, (US Rt 62 East of PA 18, West of Mercer on 62) Hermitage, Pa.

Another gun show will be on March 17-18 at the Harborcreek Fire Dept. Social Hall located at 7275 Buffalo Road, US Rt 20 (located between North East, Pa. and Harborcreek, Pa. 16421).

On April 14-15, there will be a gun show at Ashtabula County Fair Grounds at the Expo Center Building located at 127 North Elm St., Jefferson, Ohio. For more information, contact Larry Spicer at 792-9972 or email

The Seneca Allegany Casino Events Center will host its annual Outdoor Show on Feb. 24-25. Log on for more information.

There will be a sportsmen flea/yard sale at the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club on Sunday, Mar. 4 from noon until 5 p.m. Bring or look for old-new fishing, hunting, trapping, camping equipment etc. NO GUNS. Call Paul at 680-4629 for information.

The Western New York Sport & Travel Expo at the Erie County Fairgrounds in Hamburg will be a four day event from March 8-11. Check out for more information.

The first annual Lake Erie Outdoor & Fishing Show is scheduled for April 21 at the Clarion Hotel Marina & Conference Center from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. They are still looking for vendors. Call 366-3000 ext. 420 or email

Monday night, free fly tying courses at the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club are from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Tying vises, instruction and materials are all provided free. No registration is necessary. The Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club is located on Mullet Street in Dunkirk. Turn towards the lake at the Country Fair store located on Lakeshore Drive West (Route 5).

The Children of the Stream Youth Fly Fishing Program will be starting its 18th year of providing weekly free fly tying and fly fishing classes to both youths and adults in our area. Classes were on Tuesday evenings, but will now be held on Wednesday evenings from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at the Costello Community Room (P84) in the new addition to the Rockefeller Arts Center at SUNY Fredonia. You do not need any prior experience to attend these classes, and the course is geared towards ages 10 and older. For more information contact Alberto Rey at 410-7003 or

If your club or organization is holding a hunter safety training/trapping course or a turkey shoot or any other outdoors event, and would like to see it posted in the calendar, send information to the OBSERVER, 10 East Second Street, Dunkirk 14048, or call the sports department at 366-3000 ext. 5 after 6 p.m.

Note: If you have a big-game fishing or trapping success story you would like to share, call 366-1772, or 467-2079 and leave a name, phone number and a time you can be reached. You can also call 366-3000, ext. 5, after 6 p.m. or email