Submitted by Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
LINCOLN, Neb. – It is always the same question this time of year: When is the ice thick enough to venture out for some fishing? The answer: That depends.
There is no bigger safety issue in ice fishing than thickness of ice. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has some tips for a safe outing on the lake.
– A minimum of three inches of clear, blue lake ice will support a single angler, five inches will hold several anglers in single file and 8 inches will support a snowmobile.
– Slush ice is about half as strong as clear lake ice, so anglers should double the minimum thickness figures when encountering such conditions. Ice weakens with age, and late in the season, when it becomes dark and honeycombed, it is time to quit fishing for the season.
– Be especially careful on any lake that has moving water in it. Water movement retards freezing, often leaving hard-to-detect thin spots.
– Materials imbedded in the ice such as weeds or logs weaken ice. Large objects on the ice such as duck blinds or ice shacks can absorb the sun’s heat and weaken ice. Ice near shore may be weakened by heat from the ground.
– The best tool for checking ice thickness is an ice chisel or spud bar, which may be used to strike the ice and evaluate ice conditions.
– Dress appropriately to stay warm and dry. Boots and hats are important, but the key to staying warm is layering. Start with a base layer of silk or synthetic underwear and add layers. Wool garments provide excellent insulation and will stay warm even when damp. Outer layers may include sweatshirts and jackets covered by heavy parkas, bibs or coveralls. Carry at least a couple pairs of gloves or mittens.
– Commercial or homemade ice picks should be worn around your neck in case the worst happens and you need something to grip the ice and pull yourself out of the water.
– Wear ice creepers or ice cleats on your boots to keep you on your feet.
– All ice anglers should have a long piece of rope in case of emergency.
Drowning is one immediate danger from falling through the ice, but hypothermia, a rapid, drastic lowering of body temperature that causes loss of the use of limbs, disorientation, unconsciousness, and heart failure, is the real threat. Be safe on the ice for an enjoyable winter of ice fishing.