Tips on staying safe while ice fishing in Iowa

Statewide Iowa – With the brutal cold Iowa’s endured this month, our ponds and lakes have developed thick sheets of ice that are providing excellent venues for ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and more. Joe Larscheid, chief of fisheries at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says ice forms at different rates on each body of water, depending on the size and water depth, and he stresses that -no- ice is ever 100-percent safe.

Larscheid says new ice is usually stronger than old ice, while river ice is 15-percent weaker than lake ice. The DNR recommends a minimum of four inches of quality ice for fishing and at least five inches for snowmobiles and ATVs. While he likes six inches of ice, Larscheid says many parts of Iowa are reporting it even thicker.

He recommends anglers test the ice thickness frequently and to trust your instincts — if the ice doesn’t look right, don’t go out. Ice with a bluish color is safer than clear ice, and Larscheid says to avoid slushy or honey-combed ice, and stay away from dark spots on the ice. So how do you know where to go?

The DNR’s Fishing Report is released every Thursday, with dozens and dozens of ice thickness reports. Other tips from the agency: 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. 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.


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