New Ice Check List

     I woke up the other day and it turns out ice fishing season is already upon us.  The main lakes don't have enough ice for me to feel comfortable yet, so I have been out on the many ponds in the parks and recreational areas of Madison, WI.  These ponds get almost no fishing pressure in the winter and normally produce lots of bluegills so the fishing is fast and fun.  As I post the pictures online from my little fishing excursions I have been getting a lot of questions about how I know if the ponds are safe to fish.

Here is a quick list of the 6 things that go through my mind when venturing out on new ice:
  • Does this pond have any springs or feeder creeks?
  • Only 1 person walks out to check the ice.
  • Are my self rescue spikes around my neck?
  • Untie my boots (Seriously!)
  • Use the ice spud with some force
  • Does the ice look spongy or fluffy?
     So why these 6 things?  Well to put it simply, I don't have any interest in dying to catch a fish.  Using Google Earth to check the satellite maps of a pond I can see if it has a creek feeding it.  Moving water under ice usually means that the ice is thinner.  Why only one person at a time?  This makes sure that if the ice isn't safe only one person goes through it.  That leaves your fishing buddy free to make arrangements to try and save your life (or notify next of kin).  Why the self rescue spikes and untying your boots?  If you fall through the ice your best chance of surviving is to get out of the water.  Keeping your boots untied means that when they fill with water they can't drag you to the bottom.  Rescue spikes are always a good idea, keep them around your neck for the entire season.  If you don't know how to use them they are useless so I have included a video link here.  When using your ice spud to test the ice drop it with some force.  I weigh 250 pounds so lightly tapping the ice as I walk out won't tell me if the ice is safe.  Hit that ice, like your life depends on it!  Finally after drilling your first hole check to see if the ice is thick and clear or if it looks spongy and fluffy.  Fluffy ice can be really dangerous and unpredictable.  It has probably been through some melting and refreezing cycles and can have lots of air trapped in it.  If you drill a hole and have only 2 inches of ice make sure it looks clear like the ice cubes you put in your drinks not like the ice you use for a snow cone.
     Please keep these tips in mind when venturing out on new ice this year.  With some pre-planning and a little common sense you can enjoy the great fishing that first ice has to offer.  Until next time...
Ice safety is no joke, even if the size of this bluegill is funny.
     Tight Lines.

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