As we head into the “hard water” fishing season we must be aware of ice conditions and the thickness of the ice. It has always been the norm that early ice is the best time to fish but this can also be a dangerous time to fish. The DNR has some guidelines to use as an indicator but we must always remember that not all lakes are the same, which means there is always a certain risk element involved.
General thickness guide for new, clear ice only
• 2” or less - STAY OFF
• 4" - Ice fishing or other activities on foot
• 5" - Snowmobile or ATV
• 8" - 12" - Car or small pickup
• 12" - 15" - Medium truck
Many factors other than thickness can cause ice to be unsafe.
White ice or "snow ice" is only about half as strong as new clear ice. Double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.
Check the ice thickness before heading out on ice.
One way to check is to contact a local bait shop or lakeside resort to ask about ice conditions. You should also check ice thickness once you get there. Temperature, snow cover, currents, springs and rough fish all affect the relative safety of ice. Ice is seldom the same thickness over a single body of water; it can be two feet thick in one place and one-inch thick a few yards away. Check the ice at least every 150 feet. Check ice thickness at www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/ice/thickness.html.
When I was a kid growing up north of town I considered myself a country boy and the slough that runs from Goose Lake to Bancroft Bay was where I spent a lot of my winters. I would always marvel at the first ice-over; I would be there on “thin ice” watching as the water flowed under that crystal clear ice. I always looked for any sign of living creatures swimming below that first clear layer of ice. The ice seemed to moan and groan as it formed spider web like cracks when you walked on it, causing a person to think that you could break through at any moment. I have walked on ice that has sagged beneath my feet but not given way. There were a few times when the ice did give way which left me with wet pant legs and a boot or boots full of water. This was not what you had in mind; especially when the temperatures were hovering around zero or below.
There always seemed to be something special about the time that I spent walking the frozen trail of ice on that creek. There were so many adventures to be had when exploring that slough; some inspired by the surrounding wildlife and some were fueled by imagination. A kid could pretend to be any one of his boyhood heroes that he chose to be and if there were two or more of us we would each choose a hero and I always picked Sgt. Preston of the Yukon. I would usually get the first pick of heroes, which might have been influenced by the fact I was the only one with a BB gun. I believe the kids would let me pick first because they knew that I’d let them take a turn shooting my trusty old Red Ryder.
I’d guess that in looking back, that BB gun was sort of my ace-in-the-hole, but I never really thought about it in that way. In fact, in all reality, it probably meant more to me to be my hero than it did to the other kids. This is just what we did; we played outdoors using our endless imaginations to portray any one of our heroes for a little while. Whenever we spotted wildlife or even some critter tracks I considered it a good day. One of the many things that you learned from spending all that time on the slough is that you should never get too close to the cattails or swamp grass. The reason for that was the ice around them was thin and could very well result in a serious case of “wet leg” which would mean an early exit from the fun we were having in our very own winter playground.
Chronic wasting disease information meeting in Preston Dec. 15
Information about chronic wasting disease and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ management response to its discovery in two deer near Lanesboro will be the focus of a public meeting from 7-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 15, at the Fillmore Central School Auditorium, 702 Chatfield St., in Preston.
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Until next time, the lakes are starting to freeze over, so please exercise caution before venturing out; no fish is worth a life. Pheasant season runs until the 1st of January and small game for squirrel and rabbit goes until February 28th while the archery season for deer ends on December 31st.
Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms that we enjoy today. Take a little time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops that are serving today.