Late ice safety
Many anglers bag on ice fishing by mid-March but if I can find
good ice, I love late ice fishing for crappies, sunfish, and
perch. It’s a great time for fishing, but attention to ice safety
Fishing’s good because snowmelt has rejuvenated oxygen levels, but
that running water can cause problems, too.
To monitor conditions, learn to read the ice. You’ll see the color
of ice change from white or clear to more of a blue hue. We don’t
need to “beware” yet, but we should take extra safety
steps. Monitor it even more closely, and when you see a blackish
color or a light gray, then it’s getting rotten, honeycombed and
definitely unsafe. Oh, and if no one else is driving on ice, you
definitely shouldn’t be.
Some folks may say, “So what if the color has changed? There’s
still two feet of ice.” I’ve seen ice chisels bust through that
much ice with one hard thrust. Your auger will zip through it like
a hot knife on butter!
Monitor the weather. When overnight lows are around freezing and
daytime temps are into the 40s, especially with sun, ice conditions
can change fast. Throw evening rain on top of those conditions, and
it can change overnight.
Always bring a fishing partner, throwable PFD, and wear a
lifejacket and bring ice picks late in the season. With minimal
snow cover, the freezing and re-freezing will make the ice extra
slippery, so use cleats when walking.
One good thing about late ice deterioration is that shoreline ice
often is weaker than mid-lake ice. I’ve broken through along
worry-free shallow-water shoreline ice several times before. You
learn fast not to go any farther!
Another point. Melting water often will run into ice holes and
transform a small hole into a big one. Then it will refreeze on top
and not look dangerous the next morning. Bottom line, there are
lots of reasons to be careful, so pay special attention this time
of year to avoid a good dunking.