As soon as temperatures drop and water begins to freeze, a lot of anglers are looking for the opportunity to drill a hole and try to catch some fish. Ice fishing is an exciting and fun activity, but it can be dangerous.
Freezing temperatures require precautions. Falling into the freezing water could kill you in minutes. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy winter and ice fishing. The following tips can help you prepare for ice fishing in a safe way.
Location for Ice Fishing
Where you plan to fish, is an important consideration to be safe. Most states designate different public ponds and lakes where you can ice fish. Try these places first, then ask around where it is safe to ice fish? Then contact a local bait shop or lakeside resort and ask about ice conditions.
Ice thickness depends on several factors such as location, type of lake, river or pond, temperature, snow cover, currents, springs and rough fish all affect the relative safety of ice. Therefore, it is important to check the ice thickness, yourself.
Keep in mind that a shallow lake will freeze faster than a deep lake. Ice seldom freezes uniformly. It may be a foot thick in one location and only an inch or two just a few feet away.
Safety tips for Ice Fishing
- Avoid fishing near streams, bridges and culverts. The ice outside river bends is usually weaker due to the undermining effects of the faster current. Ice formed over flowing water and currents is often dangerous.
- Beware of ice around partially submerged objects such as trees, brush, embankments or structures. Ice will not form as quickly where water is shallow or where objects may absorb sunlight.
- Look for clear blue ice. White ice or “snow ice” is only about half as strong as new clear ice. The insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process. The extra weight also reduces how much weight the ice sheet can support.
- New clear ice is usually stronger than old ice. While four inches of clear, newly‑formed ice may support one person, a foot or more of old ice may not. Once you spot new blue ice, use an ice chisel or an ice auger to measure its thickness.
Here is a thickness scale for blue ice:
- 2 inches or less – STAY OFF
- Ice rule of thumb is 4 inches of good ice for a walking individual
- 6 inches of good ice for a snowmobile or ATV
- 8-12 inches of good ice for a car or small pickup
- 12-15 inches of good ice for a medium pickup truck
- Before getting comfortable, drill test holes every 30 feet, the ice thickness could change in just 20 feet. Remember there is no such thing as safe ice, but with the proper cares and precautions you can enjoy this outdoor activity in a responsible and safe way.
On our next post, we will go over the kind of safety gear and tools you should wear and take with you, in order to make your trip memorable and safe. Until then…