Equipment February 2021 News/Columns

Crappie Basics – Prepare for the Worst in Winter

Whether you fish on the ice or in southern waters, cold water is deadly.


Crappie Basics – Prepare for the Worst in Winter

Please don’t die this winter (or any winter)


Whether you are a northern angler fishing on hard water, or a southern fishermen pursuing crappie in 45 degree water, it is always wise to prepare for the worst.

A fall through rotten ice, or a slip off of a frost-covered boat deck can be a deal-breaker, if not deadly, for cold weather anglers.

When you first go into extremely cold water there is a response called “cold shock response.”

This illustration from the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources is a good guide for ice fishermen. Remember, however, that ice thickness on a lake can vary greatly, especially on old ice.

You will start to hyperventilate immediately. For one to three minutes, you breathe very fast and deep, uncontrollably. If you go underwater, you could easily swallow water and die. This is the likely cause of many, if not most, cold water drownings. Once that response goes away, you’re fine…for a little while.

According to Scientific American, a person can survive in 41-degree (Fahrenheit) water for about 15 minutes before the muscles get weak. You will lose coordination and strength as the blood moves away from the extremities and toward the core, of the body.

Ice fishermen should never venture onto the ice unless you’re sure it is safe and even then, always have the right ice fishing safety gear including a flotation suit or a life vest under your winter gear. And it’s a good idea to carry a pair of ice picks to allow you to pull yourself back onto the ice. Finally, an extra set of dry clothing might save your life. Learn more about ice fishing safety at

In the South, the same rules apply about life preservers, flotation suits and extra clothing.

As the saying goes, “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”

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