By Nick Simonson
It’s hard to believe that first ice is upon us already, and even I have set about readying my gear for a Thanksgiving trip up north for first-ice walleyes and crappies. Many friends have relayed that they plan to head out this weekend, with a solid four inches of ice in place throughout the upper Midwest. It’s an exciting time, but that excitement needs to be tempered with discretion. What follows are tips for first ice – and the entire ice season – for a safe and enjoyable time on hardwater.
10. Carry basic survival tools with you. A knife, a lighter, a whistle and ice picks are the bare bones basics you’ll need in case of trouble. A small first aid kit, a GPS unit, duct tape and a Ziploc bag are great to have too. Much of what you need to survive can be packed in a tacklebox or in an Altoids tin. Use the Ziploc bag to keep it all waterproofed.
9. Be a “half-full” angler. Keep fuel levels on your truck, snowmobile and ATV at half or better when you’re headed to the lake. That way you’re guaranteed not to get stranded in the cold for lack of gasoline.
8. Keep it on the rocks, not on the ice. Save the celebration for after the outing. Alcohol impairs judgment, hinders mobility, results in faster body-heat loss and has been a contributing factor in many ice-related incidents in recent years.
7. Stay clear. A lesson passed on to me by a brother of mine, who will remain nameless, was learned the hard way. The drawstrings of his hooded sweatshirt tangled in the gears of his power auger and the motor pulled his face flush with the housing. Thankfully, he was able to hit the kill switch and cut himself free. Lesson learned - keep loose clothing and limbs away from motorized ice equipment such as augers.
6. Layer up and pack an extra set of clothes. You can’t put on what you don’t bring with. Wear multiple layers of clothes and keep an extra set packed in your truck or sled, just in case a boot – or your whole body – breaks through.
5. Be thick-headed. Know what thicknesses of good, clear ice can support you. Four inches will hold a person. Eight inches will hold an ATV or snowmobile. 12 Inches will hold a small automobile and 16 inches of clear ice will generally hold a pickup. These are just guidelines, so adjust as needed based on ice conditions and formation in your area; gray, chunky or honeycombed ice is significantly weaker.
4. Watch the weather and the water. Warming trends and rain can have quick negative effects on ice quality. Monitor what’s coming on the next front and what has happened recently in the areas you plan to fish, as recent rains or prolonged temperatures above freezing can weaken ice. Additionally, late-departing waterfowl such as Canada geese and schooling fish like tullibee can impact areas of ice. Where these birds spent their last day will have thinner ice than the surrounding area, and large schools of whitefish near the surface have been known to keep ice from forming too.
3. Know your water body. Have a good understanding – and a map – of areas on your fishing waters which are known to have questionable ice. Note areas of currents, springs, aerators, bridges, culverts or vegetation which make ice unstable and avoid traveling or fishing near them.
2. Let ‘em know before you go. Provide information to a non-angler back home as to what lake you’ll be on, what areas you’ll be fishing and when you’ll check in and return. Leave detailed directions on how to find you along with your contact information and that of the anglers you will be with.
1. No ice is safe ice. It’s not terra firma, there’s no safety net, and it just can’t be trusted. No matter what month of the hardwater season, no matter how cold it has been, no ice is 100 percent safe. Remember that with every step and have a plan in place if you break through. Don’t drive on ice if you don’t have to. If you fall in, go back the way you came, using ice picks to pull yourself up.
Follow these tips as you venture out this month on the first few inches of safe ice. Being cautious and prepared is the first step toward a successful outing, whether you pursue pike, perch or other popular early-ice species…in our outdoors.
PF Press Release
Pheasants Forever has named Matt Christensen as the organization’s Western Minnesota Regional Representative. Previously, Christensen served as a Pheasants Forever habitat specialist. In his new position, Christensen will support and promote the conservation work of Pheasants Forever chapters in southwest, west-central and northwest Minnesota.
“Christensen has been a strong addition to the Pheasants Forever team and we are excited about the direction he will take the organization in this new role,” stated Tom Fuller, Pheasants Forever’s north region director. “His passion and commitment to our mission is highlighted by his volunteerism with multiple chapters and the work he has accomplished thus far for Pheasants Forever.”
Originally from Elk River, Minn., Christensen has been employed with Pheasants Forever since 2007, having served as a habitat specialist working in the prairie region of the state. In addition to this role, he volunteers his time as an active committee member for both the Stevens County and Glacial Ridge Chapters of Pheasants Forever near his current residence of Kensington, Minn.
“I am excited to be starting in my new role as regional representative and supporting the great chapters we have in the state of Minnesota,” explained Christensen. “With the upcoming Pheasant Summit being hosted in December as well as the numerous habitat programs available in the state, I look forward to working with chapters to make habitat conservation a continued priority for Minnesota.”
Christensen earned a B.S. in Wildlife Management in 2005 from the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point. Prior to joining Pheasants Forever in 2007, Christensen was a research technician for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, responsible for monitoring the movements of sage grouse in western Colorado and maintaining landowner relationships in the area. Supporting him during this transition is his wife, Erin, and their two children, Jake and Avery. Christensen will officially start as the Western Minnesota Regional Representative on November 18, 2014.
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever in Minnesota
By Nick Simonson
Almost overnight the local population of pheasants has had to adjust to conditions which turned the season from a warm indian-summer-type autumn into what seems to be the dead of winter. Where we were seeing birds two weeks ago - in light grasses along just-harvested fields - is not where they are going to be now, thanks to three inches of fresh snow (or more in other stretches of pheasant country), and a very cold shift in the weather pattern. So, even though it's just early November, you may want to shift your tactics to adjust to where the birds are located, and hunt like its the end of the season using winter tactics to fill the pouches in your game vest.
Last Updated ( Friday, 14 November 2014 08:39 )