Feature Article: Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is not a huge sport here in California, but take care or you can die!

BY BILL KARR/JIM NIEIEC WON Staff WritersPublished: Jan 02, 2019

KIRKWOOD — There aren’t many high elevation lakes that are safe for ice fishing here in California yet, although some may look like it, and even if a lake has ice thick enough to walk on in some places doesn’t mean it’s going to be safe everywhere.

ICE FISHING IS fun when the high elevation lakes are safe, but there are some precautions that need to be take prior to venturing out on the ice.

Protected coves and harbors are generally the first to freeze. But if there is any open water on the lake anywhere, it’s not safe to venture on. Wind waves can break up ice overnight, and inflow can keep unstable ice formations for hundreds of yards from the mouth.

Additonally, the shoreline can be deceiving, where it’s thin ice near shore but thicker offshore. Don’t trust it, period.

Once we have sustained cold weather to form good ice, activities such as ice fishing can be safe and a lot of fun, but when we go onto the ice, we need to use good judgment and observe several safety precautions.

Back east in colder climes, it’s fairly common for ice fishermen to drive their car or truck out onto the ice in bigger, frozen lakes, but here in California that is not recommended, ever.

Here’s some pointers:

— Leave information about your plans with someone — where you intend to fish and when you expect to return.

— Wear a personal flotation device and don’t fish alone.

— Dress for the cold weather! Wear several layers of loose-fitting, breathable layers of clothes. Also hats, gloves or mittens and warmers for hands and feet to prevent frost bite and hypothermia.

— Fish with a friend. Ice fishing is a great sport to share with family members and friends, and having a partner with you increases both the fun and the safety.

— Ice varies in thickness and condition. Always carry an ice spud or chisel to check ice as you proceed.

— Be extremely cautious crossing ice near river mouths, points of land, bridges, islands, and over reefs and springs. Current almost always causes ice to be thinner over these areas.

— BE AWARE of changeable weather and ice conditions, especially after a period of mild, above freezing temperatures. Re-check the ice status BEFORE venturing onto it.

— Avoid going onto the ice if it has melted away from the shore. This indicates melting is underway, and ice can shift position as wind direction changes.

— Waves from open water can quickly break up large areas of ice. If you can see open water in the lake and the wind picks up, get off!

— Bring your fully-charged cell phone with you.

— Carry a set of hand spikes to help you work your way out onto the surface of the ice if you go through. Holding one in each hand, you can alternately punch them into the ice and pull yourself up and out. You can make these at home, using large nails, or you can purchase them at stores that sell fishing supplies.

— Carry a safety line that can be thrown to someone who has gone through the ice.

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