Ice-over waters require caution and use of common sense

Published 6:33 pm Saturday, December 8, 2012

Here we are well into December and we’re only flirting with ice-over on most lakes. This is the time of year when a person has to use caution along with a little common sense before venturing out onto area lakes. I know there have already been some folks who have ventured out onto thin ice in search of those “golden” fish that they must think are lurking below a couple of inches of ice.

Falling through the ice cannot only result in getting wet and cold, but it can be fatal. I know that the experts say the fishing is the best at early ice-over, especially for perch. Personally, I feel that no matter how much I like to catch and eat fish that there isn’t any fish worth that risk.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have a few simple safety tips for ice fishermen.

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For new, clear ice only

2 inches or less: Stay off

4 inches: Ice fishing or other activities on foot

5 inches: Snowmobile or ATV

8 to 12 inches: Car or small pickup

12 to 15 inches: Medium truck


Before heading out on ice:

1. Contact a local bait shop or lakeside resort to ask about ice conditions.

2. Check ice thickness once you get there. Temperature, snow cover, currents, springs and rough fish all affect the relative safety of ice. Ice is seldom the same thickness over a single body of water; it can be two feet thick in one place and one inch thick a few yards away. Check the ice every 150 feet.

These are just some of the recommended safety guidelines for ice fishing when you do decide to venture out.

Deer hunting has all but finished for most of the hunters but the archery season will continue until the end of the month. I have a few friends who hunt with muzzleloaders for deer and one of them said that he has seen a lot of does in the area but has yet to get a shot at that elusive buck which he is seeking. He also told me that a big part of his hunting is just about watching the wildlife.

Whenever I go out of town I enjoy taking back roads instead of the interstates whenever possible. Although I do not hunt deer I probably get the same rush a hunter would get whenever I see a deer on the edge of a field or next to a grove of trees. The reason I enjoy this is not so much that it is a deer but more so that it is an animal in the wild.

As more wooded land is cleared and wetlands are tiled, the habitat for this wildlife will slowly disappear. This is why Wildlife Management Areas and CRP land are such valuable resources and will assure that there will be habitat for future generations of sportsmen to enjoy.

A few years ago I had taken a drive out past Big Island just to relax and enjoy a late afternoon fall day. I happened to spot a fox in a field of corn that had been picked but not yet plowed under. After stopping along the road, I watched as it was busily digging in the ground for what I assumed to be field mice which are one of a fox’s favorite foods. Just watching that fox jump around oblivious to the fact that someone was watching was a real treat.

There is always something special about watching critters in the wild and I do get that rush of excitement from seeing any animal whether it be a deer or a fox. Sitting on a lake and watching eagles soar overhead can be almost as rewarding as the fishing itself.

Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to observe otters, beavers, eagles, falcons, hawks, bears, wolves, moose, deer and even a badger. I was driving back to one of my favorite northern Minnesota lakes when this badger crossed the road ahead of me. It seemed as if the critter had attitude because it took its own sweet time crossing the road and making its way into the woods. Just being able to observe all of this wildlife in its natural habitat makes me a lucky person and it is no doubt one of the greatest rewards that a person can garner from spending time in the outdoors.

Until next time, take a little time to enjoy the outdoors experience and always be safety conscious when fishing or hunting.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.


Dick Herfindahl’s column appears in the Tribune every Sunday.