After an unusually mild winter, cold weather has finally arrived across Iowa and is covering previously open lakes and ponds with a layer of ice. But anglers are cautioned that just because arctic weather is here, they shouldn’t abandon their ice safety practices.
“The cold weather definitely helps to grow ice, but when ice is covered by a blanket of snow, the snow acts like insulation, slowing ice growth. Anglers should treat all ice like new ice and check its thickness frequently when heading out,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of Fisheries for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR recommends a minimum of four inches of clear ice for fishing and at least five inches for snowmobiles and ATVs.
Anglers have been ice fishing across north Iowa for the past month, but the rest of the state has seen limited opportunity. “We’ve all been waiting for cold weather to get here, let’s just give it some time to make ice,” he 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.
- Bring along these basic items to help keep you safe: hand warmers, ice cleats to help prevent falls, ice picks (wear around your neck) to help you crawl out of the water if you fall in, a life jacket, a floating safety rope, a whistle to call for help, a basic first aid kit and extra dry clothes including a pair of gloves.