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Be careful when ice fishing this season

| December 4, 2019 7:47 AM

Every year, at least one story in this space is devoted to staying safe on the ice.

Small area ponds, potholes and backwaters are finally forming a thin layer of ice, which can be deceiving to uninformed anglers eager to start ice fishing.

The message remains the same in December 2019—“If you aren’t confident on the ice, STAY OFF!“

This fall’s weather has seemed unseasonably cool, but we really haven’t had many of those nasty frigid nights that really suck the energy out of the water.

Plus, episodes of high winds have slowed ice production in all but the shallowest lakes, like Smith Lake.

Some years we are already ice fishing at Thanksgiving and that’s why novices must heed the warnings and judge the ice covering on each individual lake.

Generally, first ice is strongest because it contains fewest air bubbles and least snow weight.

Last year, my first ice fishing trip was on less than 3 inches of ice! But it was good ice, with no snow layer to hide bad spots.

During winter, ice layers thicken but, depending on weather, ice layers are subject to forces like currents, ground water, cracks, thawing, winds and a plethora of augers that compromise the strength of the ice.

Once again, if you don’t know what you’re doing, “STAY OFF!”

Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.