The cold and snow finally blew in and that means ice fishing is just around the comer. Last year Scofield was safe for fishing by the 15th of December so it is just about time to break out that cold weather gear. Here are a few tips that will help you have a productive, safe ice fishing season:
1. Ice fishing requires a bit of luck, science, skill and safety thinking. Safety thinking should come first - your life may depend on it!
2. State law allows a maximum diameter of 12 inches for ice holes except at Flaming Gorge and Fish Lake where an 18 inch hole may be cut.
3. The garnefish you intend to catch may be anywhere between the bottom and just under the ice. Experiment with different depths until you find where the fish are. Or, better yet, rig up your fish finder on a sleigh and take it out on the ice with you. Cut a hole and stick the probe down under the ice. In no time at all you will know where the fish are.
4. Keep your lure or bait moving. Pull it up a few feet (distance depends on the type of lure or bait you are using) and then let it fall. Airplane jigs need to fall for four or five feet to have the proper action but skirts or grubs may only need to be moved a few inches to get a fish excited about them.
5. Cut a few test holes as you move out onto the ice. This will give you an idea of the ice thickness and how safe it is and will also allow you to test for depth. Many times the fish will be in shallow water only eight or 10 feet deep. However, if you are fishing for lake trout or splake you may find the fish as deep as 100 feet or so.
6. Use an ice auger if possible. Chopping ice holes with an ax or pick is extremely hard work and it is easy to make the hole too large or to splash ice water all over yourself as you near completion of the hole. You have to stay dry when ice fishing and working up a sweat can get you into real trouble when the temperature is below freezing.
7. Watch out for holes chopped by other ice fishermen. Once you have stuck your foot into one of them, your trip is over. Also, the wet area and loose ice chips around a newly cut hole can be extremely slick. Be careful!
8. There is an old phrase, "do not walk on thin ice." Our lakes and reservoirs are deep and cold.
9. New ice is stronger than old ice.
10. Slush ice (white frosty looking ice) is only about half as strong as clear blue ice.
11. River ice is considerably weaker than lake ice.
12. Continuous travel over the same route across ice will tend to weaken it.
13. Ice may have weak spots in areas of currents or springs.
14. Two inches of ice will generally support one adult of average size - on foot.
15. Three inches of ice will support a small group of people, providing they walk single file and remain well spaced.
16. Ice over twelve inches thick will usually support the weight of a car.
17. Many outdoorsmen are unaware of the demon called hypothermia - the silent killer. Make sure you know its warning signs.
Ice fishing is great fun and is one of the greatest winter sports - if you are prepared with the proper clothing and fishing gear. Maybe it is time to ask Santa for those cold weather boots and gloves you have been wanting.