November 26, 2021

State’s warning: Don’t end up on thin ice

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Jeremy Albro of Cortlandville fishes through the ice on Goodale Lake in Preble in this file photo from January 2015.

Anglers should exercise caution when venturing out onto ice, especially after Thursday’s unusually high temperatures and rain.
“Conditions are definitely getting a little sketchy,” Ed Vernum, owner of Forest Fisheries, at 68 N. West St., Homer, said Friday at his shop.

After the spring-like weather Thursday, anglers looking to get out on the ice for the weekend should be careful — especially on the shoreline, Vernum said.

The ice on the shoreline of bodies of water tends to melt first, David Lemon, Region 7 fishing manager for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said Friday. Ice can also be weaker near areas of inflow, like near a tributary or stream, during periods of warmer weather.

“People should be very careful if they choose to go out,” Lemon said.

Anglers should continue to check the strength of the ice after checking the ice near the shore. Vernum said some anglers take their spud bar — a long piece of steel, generally about 4 to 5 feet in length with a tapered point at the end — and tap the ice with it. If the spud goes through the ice, anglers need to back off, Vernum said.

Lemon said it is unlikely that water temperature rose from just a short period of warm weather and rain. He also said it’s hard to tell if the weather will have any impact on the fishing.

Jeremy Albro, a resident of Cortlandville and an ice fisherman for around 30 years, said Friday if someone knows the ice they are going out on and has been there before, it makes a difference in safety.

Albro suggested anglers take at least 50 feet of rope and ice picks when going out on the ice after warm weather. And taking a friend along isn’t a bad idea, either.

“Going out alone is stupid if the ice isn’t too thick,” Albro said.

A minimum of 4 inches of clear ice is safe for anglers on foot, according to a news release from the DEC. However, ice anglers should note ice thickness can vary between bodies of water and even on the same body of water.

Anglers should also be wary of areas of moving water and around boat docks and houses where bubblers — a machine that pumps air into the water to keep the ice melted with the flow of above-freezing water — are used, according to the release.

Snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be considered evidence of safe ice conditions, according to the release.
Anglers are also reminded to take these important steps when using baitfish while ice fishing:

– Follow the bait fish regulations to prevent the spread of harmful fish diseases and invasive species.

– Use only certified disease-free bait fish purchased at a local tackle store, or use only personally collected bait fish for use in the same water body in which they were caught.

– Do not reuse baitfish in another water body.

– Dump unused baitfish and water in an appropriate location on dry land.