Outdoors column: Let’s be careful out there on the ice

It’s on! There’s good ice just about everywhere you look and anglers are getting out and getting busy with early ice walleyes. Even so it’s too early to drive out and there isn’t safe ice everywhere, even if you’re walking.

For the most part you can walk or get out on snowmobiles and ATVs right now, but it depends on the lake and you absolutely have to know what you’re doing before venturing on to the ice. High winds early in the season messed up decent ice on lakes like Red and Mille Lacs by pushing it around and piling it up, leaving some of the lake wide open. They’ve both healed up and the below zero weather has put them back on schedule, but just realize that ice thickness isn’t going to be the same everywhere.

And then there was all of that snow we got and really didn’t need, at least not yet. The snow acts as insulation and slows the whole process down but even so ice is still developing especially when the temps are well below zero at night.

The author played it safe for this nice walleye.
The author played it safe for this nice walleye.
Submitted Photo

Current areas are a big consideration and something to avoid all winter long, but is absolutely critical when dealing with early ice. An incoming or outgoing creek or stream can create dangerous conditions 50 to a 100 feet or more out into the lake so stay clear, even if you think there is good fishing to be had.

There can be current without any creek or river in close proximity as well. Take Lake of Woods, for example. There is dangerous ice miles from any river but the current near some of the islands and narrows is still there with ice too thin to even walk on. I had my own experience fishing a big western reservoir late last winter that could have been really bad, but was fortunate enough to escape with most of my gear and more important, my life.

With a reservoir there is current, some of which comes from the headwaters and some from a draw down where water is being released. With water being released current is created and is especially critical near points and shorelines close to the main channel which can still be miles up the lake or up a creek arm. Even though I had been duly warned I still got too close to a point and put the back end of my sled in near one of those aforementioned points and it was scary indeed. That event made me realize just how serious it all was and solidified my resolve to be a lot more careful in the future.

To that end I’ve decided that a Striker floating insulated suit would be a good idea. The Striker suit is no more bulky (or expensive) than the regular type, but yet it is surprisingly buoyant and comfortable to wear. The thing is if God forbid you ever go in, how are you going to get out? Not only would you have to pull yourself out but your clothes are going to be soaked and add a bunch of weight, probably more than most could handle. See you on the ice.

Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.