Ice fishing season in full swing: Hard-water anglers urged to use caution

By: 
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Angel Rangel holds up a perch he caught ice fishing in February at East Fork Reservoir during the annual Lewis and Clark fishing expedition. East Fork is a popular area for hard-water fishermen in Central Montana.

  News-Argus file photo

 

 

 

  It’s that time of year when ice anglers will be heading out to Montana’s waters for the ice fishing season.  Ice fishing is a great winter activity that the entire family can enjoy.  Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reminds anglers that safety should be the number one concern during a day out on the ice. While the first ice of the year often offers some of the best fishing, it also can be quite variable from location to location and from day to day.

Anglers should be familiar with the water body they plan to fish, or go with someone who knows that water and how ice tends to form and change there. The safest ice anglers are those who pay as much attention to the condition of the ice as they do the fishing conditions.  

And when on the ice, remember:

If you have even the slightest doubt about the safety of the ice—stay off it. No fish is ever worth a fall into frigid water.

Blue ice is usually hard. Watch out for opaque, gray, dark or porous spots in the ice that could be weak, soft areas. Ice also tends to thin more quickly at the shorelines.

The following are MINIMUMS needed with ice thickness:

4 inches:  1 person with gear

5 inches:  small group spread out

6 inches:  snowmobile or ATV

9 inches:  small automobile*

12 inches: pickup truck or SUV*

 *not recommended, but if you must, proceed at your own risk!

 

Ice fishing tips

•Watch for pressure ridges. These are areas of open water or thin ice where the ice has cracked and heaved due to expansion from freezing.

•Test the ice ahead of you with an ice spud bar or an auger.

•Don’t leave children unsupervised on the ice.

•Lakes and ponds do not freeze at the same thickness all over.

•Moving water—rivers, streams and springs—weaken ice by wearing it away from underneath. Avoid ice on rivers and streams, or where a river or stream enters a lake, pond or reservoir.

•The least safe ice usually occurs early and late in the season, when the weather is warmer.

•Some other common ice-safety reminders to keep in mind include:

•Wear warm and waterproof clothing to help prevent frostbite and hypothermia.

•Consider changes in the weather (and ice conditions) during the prior 24 hours.

•It’s OK to wear a life jacket (PFD) or carry a throwable floatation device while out on the ice — safe ice-anglers do it all the time.

•Before you head from home, tell someone where you plan to fish and when you plan to return.

Carry a pair of ice picks (long spikes on a heavy string around your neck). If you break through the ice, you can use the spikes to grip the ice and pull yourself out of the water.

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