Spring ice can be most treacherous

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Spring ice is the most dangerous ice of the year.

The strength of spring ice depends on months of variable air temperatures, snow load, wind, rain, runoff, sunshine, underwater springs, old holes, debris on the ice, and who only knows what else!

One day in April last year I left my power auger home, thinking a hand auger would be enough to drill a hole.

I did hand drill some holes, but I was sweating!

Other years, ice has been unsafe by late March.

Every year is different and frustrating because late ice is generally the fastest time of the year to catch a limit of kokanee salmon.

And a scary factor is that ice safety conditions can change not only daily but within hours.

Heavy dumps of snow in March push down on the ice causing water to rise out of fishing holes.

Water on the ice erodes more ice and makes slush which is miserable in which to walk and fish through.

The melted snow/slush generally freezes every evening forming light colored ice which is full of air bubbles. Ice with bubbles is weak ice.

The following morning the ice looks safe, especially if there’s a dusting of new snow, but by mid-morning the slush is back and the ice continues to erode.

The ice turns dark because there are water molecules between the ice crystals.

Then that’s the end of ice fishing.

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

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