This winter about 30 careless ice anglers have already taken a ride on ice flow. A week before New Year, 10 people were drifting in Azov Sea, other 17 reckless fishermen set sailing in Khmelnitski reservoir, two men surfed Dnieper River in Dnipropetrovsk region. An angler from Zaporizhya region was riding an ice flow for 24 hours until rescuers finally got him. All these stories have a happy ending. However, the statistics shows that in Ukraine more than hundred people die under ice annually.       

"If my wife knew how many times I fell through the ice, I would have to 'quit' fishing long time ago," a 55-year-old angler Petro from Cherkassy says. However, despite the danger he has no intentions to 'quit' and even gives recommendation how not to fall into an ice trap. "The first rule is no alcohol before or during fishing. Local citizens used to sell alcohol on ice, as others sell ice cream on the beach. It's a good thing that this is no longer popular," he adds.

According to the angler, moving on ice it is necessary to control strength of ice with an ice chisel. If the needle goes through the ice, it is time to go back. Do not run, but move slowly. "Do not fish near open water or walk near ice pot holes. Moreover, anglers do not crowd and never make ice-holes one near another. However, it is not recommended to go on ice alone," Petro specifies.

There are several factors showing the ice is not safe, Emergency Ministry warns. Ice is usually thin near industrial effluent streams, strong currents, bushes and reed, under the snow.

"If it happens that you fall in, start working with your elbows and break ice behind you until you find a solid spot. Then lean on your back and get out. Go back to firm ground following the same path you came. When you are on the ground, screw water out of your clothes, dress and run home," Petro recommends. Don't waste energy to remove your winter clothing, as there is a risk to get tangled and drown, he adds.

Anglers say that fishing is most interesting on last ice. At the beginning of spring, fish gets ready for spawning and comes closer to the shores. There is a big chance to catch big fish during this period. However, ice becomes spongy and fishing becomes dangerous for life.

Routine of a Ukrainian fisherman

Winter fishing is traditional men's hobby, which does not require big investments. New-fashioned fishing suits and expensive equipment are optional. Experienced anglers know that old felt boots, down coat and a pair of cottonwool trousers provide the same warmth. "With a nice sunny weather it becomes even hot in such clothes. Moreover, the ice reflects sun rays and once I came back home with tanned face and hands," sport fisherman Vitaly from Kyiv says.

He also underlines that folk magic, charms and tokens play an important role in the life of fishermen. "The first small fish, for example, must be carefully removed from the hook, kissed and let go to its "relatives". If you take big bags for a big catch, there won't be any. It is better to take a small plastic bag, and to borrow bags from colleagues in case of a big take," Vitaly tells.

Interestingly, fishing magic is popular not only among Slavic people. In case of poor biting aborigines of Solomon Islands often yell at fish. According to the belief, having heard the curses ashamed fish starts biting.

What if we run out of fish...

Maybe, thanks to charms Vitaly has already caught kilos of fish. According to the angler, at this time of the year it is possible to catch bass, ruffe, roach, pikeperch, freshwater cod, carp. "River inhabitants are very hungry now, and a lot of fish are with eggs," he says.

Ichthyologist and researcher of Schmalgauzen Institute of Zoology of NASU Yulia Kutsokon explains that the majority of species go on wintering in the stage of egg maturing. She laments a fact that the state statistics service does not take into account individual local anglers. "Such fishing is a serious impact factor on population of river fauna. People often fish small fry, which cause damage to the whole stock. Everyone should remember that everything ends eventually, fish stock including. In Slovakia, for example, fishing is more organized and controlled. Anglers pay fee to the state budget and take environmental protection measures," Kutsokon underlines. 

In many foreign TV shows about fish and fishing, we can see river and sea inhabitants caught but then let go. This is the principle of sport fishermen. If you do not catch fish for living, there is no need to do damage to fish fauna. "Some of my friends also start following this principle. Their fellow anglers laugh and say, like, how the fish will live with pierced lip. But I tell you what. Fish with pierced lip is better than no fish at all," Yulia Kutsokon adds. 
They say there are no limits and obstacles for a true angler. However, apart from technical skills of hooking, baiting and luring, it is important to remember about safety rules, especially on the first and last ice. Moreover, the saying "where there is water there is fish" may lose the meaning if anglers driven by gain do not stop fishing baby fish, crossing out the future of rivers.

Alina Yeremeyeva


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