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,
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.
CONDITIONS -- Phil Hawkins fishes suspect ice from a boat. Note gear in