For those who love to fish, ice-fishing is a great way to spend the winter months, however, being safe on the ice should be every fisherman’s number one priority. According to Nebraska Game and Parks Biologist and Master Angler Daryl Bauer, we are getting close to seeing safe ice, but there are too many variables to make valid predictions.
Generally small bodies of water freeze and thaw faster, but even if one waterbody locks up with ice and is safe, that does not mean the next one is safe too.
According to Bauer, we are getting close to having safe ice, but it has not been cold enough to make it thicken and long-range forecasts do not look promising. While we wait for the ice to become safe, now is a great time to make sure all of your equipment is working. Whether that is tip-ups, rod and reel, ice hut, or an auger, make sure your equipment is ready to go as soon as you step on the ice so you don’t have to spend quality fishing time making repairs.
When it comes to ice safety, especially with first ice, make sure to have plenty of safety equipment including ice picks, a spud bar, ice cleats, and a float suit or life jacket. According to the Department of Natural Resources, with new clear ice, a fisherman can safely fish on approximately four to five inches of ice, but remember that just because there might be five inches of ice ten feet from the shoreline, does not mean it will be the same after another ten feet.
When stepping onto first ice for the first time, use a spud bar (a long piece of steel about four-five feet in length with a tapered point at the end) to test the ice by slamming the point down every step to make sure the ice is safe. Along with the spud bar, make sure to also have ice picks to use if you would ever fall through the ice to be able to drag yourself out of the water.
A float suit or inflatable life jacket is also a great safety idea to help keep your head above water. Finally, make sure to have good ice cleats to help keep traction on the ice to prevent slips and help keep you from hitting your head.
For those who maybe are looking to get into ice-fishing for the first time or maybe you need a refresher, the Nebraska Game and Parks will be hosting virtual Discover Ice-Fishing clinics in January. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Nebraska Fish and Game Association will host classroom clinics via Zoom on Jan. 16 and Jan. 19. Due to COVID-19 concerns, there will be no on-ice clinics in January.
Join the panel of avid ice-fishers to learn about ice-fishing safety, clothing, equipment, and gear, as well as suggestions on where to fish. Each clinic will end with a question-and-answer session.
Register to attend one or both sessions by going to the calendar event entries at calendar.outdoornebraska.gov.