Outdoors: Frozen lakes require extreme caution – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Outdoors: Frozen lakes require extreme caution

PRATT – After nighttime temperatures in the single-digits and daytime highs in the teens and twenties, most Kansas water bodies are covered with a sheet of ice. While beautiful and perhaps alluring to anglers and explorers, a frozen lake can be deadly and deserves respect and caution.

Ice fishing in Kansas has a marginal tradition at best because we are at the southern range of weather conditions required to make ice on large water bodies. Weather during many winters may not get cold enough or stay cold long enough to freeze lake surfaces with enough ice to support human traffic. However, when those arctic blasts do get this far south and remain for any length of time, those who have enjoyed Kansas ice fishing are anxious for another opportunity.

The adage that “first ice is best ice” indicates that fishing can be very good soon after ice is formed and may draw anglers out before conditions are “safe.” And many veteran ice anglers will tell you that no ice is safe. No matter how cold it is or how thick the ice appears, venturing out on a frozen lake always requires precautions.

The following are a few common-sense ice safety rules:

  • Wait for at least 4 inches of clear, hard ice before venturing out on foot.
  • Make test holes as you venture out to determine the thickness and quality of ice.
  • Avoid ice over moving water, springs, or where large flocks of ducks or geese have roosted.
  • Never ice fish alone.
  • Carry or wear a personal floatation device.
  • Carry ice handspikes, which can help you climb out of the water and on to ice if you fall through.
  • Include in your gear a length of rope and float cushion; something that could be thrown to someone who’s fallen through the ice.
  • Avoid ice if temperatures have recently warmed; avoid honeycombed or dark ice.

Remember that no ice is truly safe. Err on the side of caution, and if you have any doubts, stay off. It only takes minutes for hypothermia to take effect in icy water, making a fall through the ice deadly serious.

Ice fishing is a great way to catch fish and enjoy the winter outdoors, but it requires attention and caution.

Information and photo thanks to Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

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