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Ice fish once more, but safely

February 26, 2008 at 10:12 AM

This winter the temperatures have bounced up and down like the stock market. It hasn’t been the best winter for “hard-water” fishing. Farm ponds, lakes and streams have frozen over and thawed several times since early December.

With days and nights below freezing this week, the on-again, off-again ice is on again. And spring is right around the corner — at least the calendar says so. This weekend might be your last opportunity to fish through a hole in the ice.

While some safety measures such as wearing a floatation device, telling someone where you’re going and never fishing alone are consistent with open-water fishing, ice fishing comes with safety concerns of its own.

A safety line attached to your belt and secured to a tree or a vehicle on the bank can be your lifeline if you break through the ice. Ice rescue picks thread through your sleeves like a child’s mittens and are right there for you to use if you fall through the ice and need to pull yourself out of a hole.

Without highly specialized equipment, the only way to determine whether the ice is thick enough to hold you is to go out on it and drill a hole. According to the United States Army Cold Regions Research Laboratory, ice 2 inches thick will support 200 pounds at one spot, and another 200 pounds 17 feet away. That means 2 inches of ice would, at best, be marginally safe for a full-grown fisherman with heavy clothes and equipment. I’d get off it and let it freeze for another day or two.

The amount of weight ice will support rises dramatically when it freezes 4 inches deep. Four inches of ice will support 2,000 pounds at one spot. Ice 6 inches thick will support 2 tons in one place. On rivers or larger bodies of water with a current, ice thickness may vary as you move out from the shore or get close to tributaries feeding the main stream. It’s best to drill more than one hole and consider all the ice to be as thick as the thinnest ice you encounter.

The Army says non-porous ice 9 inches thick should support 5 tons. That is theoretically thick enough ice for you to drive your truck out to your favorite fishing spot. Even if your insurance agent is on speed dial and you’ve watched every episode of “Ice Road Truckers,” this is risky business. Walk out and drill some holes before you take the plunge. Better yet, park the truck on dry land and tie a safety line to the bumper. Run the line through your belt, then walk out to your fishing spot. I wouldn’t even drive Buckwheat’s truck out on a frozen pond.

If you’re determined to try it, drive with the windows rolled down. That way you can get out in a hurry if the cab starts to fill with water.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was published Feb. 23, 2008 in the Springfield State Journal-Register.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Some of the things we did on the frozen strips pit around Fulton County when I was a tenager now brings chills up and down my spine. We would just drive our cars as fas as we could out on the pits during winter and then lock the brakes. We had no irea how thick the ice was. Just goes to prove that God takes care of us when we are just plain stupid.

Jim at FishinPals

Posted by fishinpals on 02/26 at 08:46 PM

Is this guy fishing the same waters I am?  There was at least 16 inches of ice on Lake Argyle this weekend. 

RH - Macomb

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/27 at 08:54 AM

why would anyone ice fish on less than 4 inches of ice?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/27 at 09:31 PM

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