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Ice safety reminder as Iowa lakes freeze over

  • 12/27/2017 11:12:00 AM
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The recent blast of arctic air is growing ice on lakes and ponds over much of Iowa. Anglers are starting to get out for the popular early ice fishing of the season.

“Many of us look forward to ice fishing each winter,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of fisheries for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “It is a fun, social activity best enjoyed with family and friends.”

Anglers heading out are reminded to check the ice often as they make their way to their favorite fishing spot. The DNR recommends a minimum of four inches of quality ice for fishing and at least five inches for snowmobiles and ATVs. 

“Check ice thickness as you go out. Ice thickness is not uniform on anybody of water,”
Larscheid said. “There could be pockets of thin ice or places where the geese had kept ice from forming.”

Early ice offers an excellent chance for success.  If fish are finicky, plan to cut a series of holes and spend 15 minutes at each hole targeting active fish. Use small baits and light line.

“Now that we have ice, we must go through our mental safety check list.  Go with a friend and be sure to cut some test holes to check ice thickness as you go out,” Larscheid said. 

Safety Tips on the Ice

  • No ice is 100 percent safe.
  • New ice is usually stronger than old ice. 
  • Don’t go out alone - if the worst should happen, someone will be there to call for help or to help rescue.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you will return.
  • Check ice thickness as you go out - there could be pockets of thin ice or places where ice recently formed.
  • Avoid off-colored snow or ice. It is usually a sign of weakness.
  • The insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process.
  • Safety items in the bucket: Ice picks, about 50 feet of rope and a floatable seat cushion you can throw to someone in case of rescue.