As crazy as it may seem to many "normal" people, there is among us a dedicated throng of fishermen and women, who relish long, cold winters - people who religiously watch the 10 o'clock weather and are cheered by the prospect of below zero nights and cold gray days. I confess! I'm one of them. For me it starts in early October when the temperature first starts to drop to freezing, and the cold north winds start to blow the leaves from the trees.
I find myself in my garage, taking inventory of my ice fishing gear. I'll clean up my "Jiffy" and start it for the whole world to hear. "Baroooom, Baroooom, Barooooom, Bap, Bap, Bap." "It's Alive" It's an awesome sound and I begin to drift off into a deep artic daydream. I can hear the ice crunch beneath my cleated boots as I pull my sled across the vast frozen waters searching.searching for fish and the next meal that will provide the needed nutrition for my family to survive. But wait! I hear a voice calling from behind me.. "Hey, Nanook! It's time to take out the trash!" Well! As you can tell I get a little caught up in the sport.
To start off, I'd like to say something about safety on the ice. Every year new ice anglers ask the same question. "How much ice is considered safe? How much ice, and what kind of ice will safely support an ice fisherman and all his equipment? The safe load ice will bear isn't necessarily the thickness. Here's a popular rule of thumb. Preferably 31/2" to 4" of clear blue lake ice will support a single angler, and 5" will hold several anglers in single file. You need 8" for safe operation of a snow mobile. Slush ice is only half as strong as clear blue lake ice, so double the minimum thickness figures when you encounter these conditions.
Bear in mind also that ice weakens with age. Late in the season ice becomes dark and will honeycomb. Then it's time to quit for the season. In the late season a cold snap may occur and refreeze the ice, but it will never regains its original strength. Any lake with moving water current, inlet canal, ground water seepage or an outlet can be dangerous. Remember, water movement, no matter how slight, retards freezing, often leaving hard to detect thin spots. Be suspicious of any discolored ice. Stay away from large objects left on ice such as abandoned duck blinds, old ice shanties, embedded material such as weeds or logs and things of this nature. These objects can absorb the suns heat and weaken ice. The ice near the shoreline will also begin to weaken just from the warming ground temperature. Watch for future articles on ice fishing gear, clothing, shelters, baits and lures, and finding fish. Take care and be Safe.
Dan "Nanook" Nielsen Sr.