What you need to know before you venture out on the ice.
With old man winter here most ice-angling enthusiasts are planning their next trip, but for all you late winter fisherman, it’s time to break out the ice auger, ice rods and shelters because ice fishing season is on, and with this years new ice on the lake, anglers will be anticipating another exciting and successful season.
However if you plan on enjoying an outing, anglers need be aware of the dangers involved in ice fishing and frankly speaking there are things you need to know before venturing out on the ice.
According to Colorado Department of Natural Resources, “There is no such thing as safe ice, but there are some guidelines anglers should consider.” C-DNR indicates ice conditions in Colorado vary from lake to lake and that it’s important to check conditions before venturing out.
Usually at this time of the year, safer ice can be had at most of Colorado’s higher elevations, but it’s still best to get reports on ice conditions before planning a trip.
While mountain venues are your best bet for safer ice, local hard waters may be iffy right now in certain areas because of warmer temperatures. If you find yourself to be the only one on the ice, there could be a good reason why.
Consequently, ice fishing can be a dangerous pastime and if you’re not an experienced ice angler and don’t know how to determine unsafe ice from ice that’s thick enough to hold your weight, you could be in for a quick ice fishing season.
Remember you take a risk anytime you go out on the ice and in most cases if you’re not comfortable with the conditions then it’s not worth your life to go out on a limb just to catch fish.
Having the confidence to be out there allows you to focus in on what your doing and that all begins with feeling safe. If you know what to look out for in terms of judging ice conditions, it will help in making sound decisions when it really counts. Taking precautionary measures and having safety equipment with you is your best insurance and it makes for a safer day on the ice.
The fact is that sometimes ice can be deceiving to even an experienced ice angler and while some locations may be solid in one place, other areas with identical looking ice may have some soft pockets of ice that can’t hold your weight. This is known to some experienced ice anglers as “fools ice” so be careful.
One of the biggest blunders for ice anglers in Colorado, especially if fishing along the front-range is the warm weather patterns that move in and sudden changes in temperatures notorious for this state, making ice along the shore unsafe as the day progresses. Check your weather report prior to your ice-fishing trip.
It can be quite deceiving and sometimes freighting to see ice that’s safe enough to walk on in the morning, for instance when you first launch your sled on ice, then fishing throughout the day in ice thickness of 6-8 inches, and by mid afternoon when you rap it up for the day, finding open water on the shoreline. You may have to find an alternate area to get back on land, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to find one without getting wet.
Receding ice from shore can put you in a precarious position. Before launching on ice that day, think about the weather that was forecasted and choose a smart place to launch on the ice because it’s best to have a contingency plan should you need it.
Choose a location to launch your sled in an area that has a flat or a gradual descending contour on the lake rather than a bluff or a shear drop off into deep water, because it’s an easier situation to get out of and is far less dangerous.
Temperature changes throughout the day causes ice to expand and contract creating cracks and loud noises from movement and pressure ridges where it can consequentially effect the strength of ice in most situation’s.
Watch out for snow on the ice as it hides weak, cracked or thin ice and acts like an insulator preventing clear and blue ice from bonding tightly. New colder snow on a clear sheet of ice is very slippery and can be like walking on ball bearings. Have your ice cleats handy.
Be aware of ice around submerged objects like trees, brush, other structures and embankments. Ice inherently will not form as fast or as tight with these shallow sun absorbed objects.
Look for clear blue ice and stay away from darker and gray slushy ice especially near the end of the ice fishing season.
It’s best to have a partner to go ice fishing with should a situation arise. Don’t forget to have ice picks with you and carry them where you can get to them in an instant. Ice picks will give you leverage to pull yourself back onto the ice should you fall through. Furthermore it’s a good idea to drill test holes before you venture too far on the lake.
A good rule of thumb for ice thickness is as follows:
2 inches or less, stay off the ice.
4 inches of good ice for an individual walking
6 inches of good ice for a snowmobile or ATV
8-12 inches of good ice for car or small pick-up truck
12-15 inches of good ice for a medium sized pick-up truck