(DNR photo)

Iowans who love to ice fish might consider adding a new piece of high-tech outerwear to their gear bag — what’s known as a float coat.

Susan Stocker, the boating law administrator and education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says float coats offer protection from hypothermia — and drowning.

“It is U.S. Coast Guard approved and it’s actually a life jacket,” Stocker says. “What they’ve done is they’ve created the entire coat to be made up of floatation material.” Donning a float coat is one more way to prevent a catastrophe, she says, if the worst should happen while you’re out on the ice.

“They come in all shapes and sizes. They come in all colors so if you want to go duck hunting, they even have a camouflage one,” Stocker says. “It’s great for keeping a person warm and if, unfortunately, you find yourself in the water, it’s a way to protect yourself and-or save yourself.”

Besides providing an additional level of safety, she says having your coat serve as a floatation device also brings peace of mind. She reminds you, no ice should ever be considered completely safe.

“You want to make sure that you are going out and checking the local predictions for the area that you’re at,” Stocker says. “People also need to understand there’s been a lot of snow on top of the ice and that keeps it insulated and the thickness can vary.”

The DNR recommends a minimum of four inches of clear ice for fishing and at least five inches for snowmobiles and ATVs.