"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Assume Nothing In Search For Safe Ice
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Scifres

The visit of the iceman to northern tier counties in many years coincides with Santaís big day, so you can break out the ice poles and prepare for a skillet of big bluegills and fried taters, maybe even a pan of hot cornbread, a stick of creamery butter, and a few spoons of strawberry jam. Throw in a cup of hot coffee . . . with honey.

Well, thatís is what is going on right now, and . . . and in the immediate future . . . but if this is how your mindset is going, it would be a good idea to get at least the fishing done soon. If the weather runs true to form a warm-up can throw a wrench in the cogs.

We have had ice-fishing conditions for the foolish for some time, but Sunday nightís blast put the icing on the cake. It will take more zero nights to make the deep water safe for fishing, but the bays and channels have good ice now. That even applies to central and southern waters, especially the shallows.

Still, the purpose of this column is not to send thousands of icers to the lakes, pits, ponds and other waters as they revel in the coming of some safe ice. The purpose of this column . . . this advice . . . from one who has been in broken ice a few times . . . is to make caution your watchword.

Sure, ice fishing is fun, and so are the many other forms of winter activities. But, under ideal conditions, ice is treacherous, ever-changing.

There are so many things that can happen to good firm ice in a matter of hours that one would have trouble addressing them even in a book. The really scary feature lies in the fact that every body of water--because of landforms that surround it--must be considered individually. One can assume nothing in the search for safe ice.

A great percentage of the ice fishing is done within 60 yards of the shore or solid objects. Both shore and solid objects can be used effectively as lifelines to safety. A system I devised many years ago could take you safely (but wet) to safety.

A coil of clothesline rope (one end attached to a solid object and the other end to your waist) will not just help you get out of the water, but it will help you to safety. If the fishing spot is out of reach of the shore, a small hole cut in the ice will serve as a solid object. Just tie the clothesline rope to the center of a strong (two foot) stick (a piece of broom handle is ideal) and place the stick crosswise in the ice hole. The other end of a long line can be attached to the waist and offer plenty of room for movement.

Phil Hawkins, an outdoor friend from Franklin, also pushes a small, flat-bottom boat onto the ice ahead of him and spuds fishing holes into questionable ice at the side of the boat. Seats of the boat are ideal chairs and the boat becomes a vehicle for a lantern, lunch, camera and other paraphernalia.

Click on thumbnail image for enlarged view.

BAD CONDITIONS -- Phil Hawkins fishes suspect ice from a boat. Note gear in boat.
phil1.jpg (94396 bytes)

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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