Ice fishing is among us

Ice anglers have been itching to get out on the ice this winter season. Some ice on ponds and lakes are in pretty good condition, while others are not. The weather has not been ideal for building some really nice ice in the central and southern parts of the state. Yes, ponds and lakes are frozen, but that doesn’t mean the ice is ready for ice anglers in all parts.

Outdoorsmen and anyone watching the news this past week were once again reminded how dangerous the sport of ice fishing can be. Last weekend, a Grundy Center man lost his life on Lake Ponderosa, a lake only 45 minutes away from Marshalltown. It is a tragedy, and I, along with anyone who heard about the story, had a special prayer or two sent up for him and his family. There have been three deaths caused this winter by people falling through the ice. If you venture on the ice, no matter how big or small the body of water, please take extra caution and review these popular tips so you can have a safe winter fishing.

TIP #1- always use the buddy system. Take a friend with you. This will allow you to have one person stay on land while the other can go onto the lake to make some test holes. Two people along during this early ice is best, you could save each other if an accident occurs.

TIP#2- safety devices. Every ice angler needs to invest the money in some safety items. The first thing to get is a pair of ice picks. These are two picks that go around your neck and will help you pull yourself out of the water if you fall in. Without these, you have nothing to grip and could eventually wear yourself out and get hypothermia or worse. You can use them in your hands to stab into the ice and pull yourself up onto a safe area. Each angler should also have a flotation device ready. If a person were to go into the water, you could throw him/her a life vest or a flotation cushion. These take up very little room and make for a good seat cushion too. Another safety device is a rope. Get a length of rope at least 30 feet long and put it with your ice fishing things. This rope can be used to help a person out of the water from a distance and will keep at least one person in a safe area.

TIP#3- check the ice. Before you start walking out onto the lake with your safety devices, check the ice as you travel away from shore. Every 10 steps or so, drill a test hole to check the thickness of the ice. The Department of Natural Resources suggests that you have 3-4 inches of ice under you if you intend to fish. I really believe in this. No fish is worth going through the ice. Use a ruler or your fingers to measure, don’t just assume, ice is very deceiving when looking at it from an angle. One thing to always remember … “No ice is safe ice.”

TIP #4- dress for the weather. Always dress for the worst weather. You can always take clothes off, but you can’t put them on if you don’t have them. A good pair of boots, coveralls, a couple hats, gloves, even an extra set might be nice if one gets wet from handling all those fish.

TIP #5- Use the BUDDY SYSTEM. People should never venture out on the ice alone. Always take a friend and discuss the dangers of going on the ice. Have a plan, and make sure all anglers know where the safety items are located.

It does seem like a lot to worry about and plan for, however, if you ever need any of the safety devices, you will have them ready. I hope nobody ever needs to use them, but having them nearby really helps an angler be safe, concentrate on fishing and have fun during these cold months. By taking the precautions each time going on the ice, you too can follow your outdoor ambition of catching fish through the ice. Be careful, check for ice thickness, and stay warm. Next week, I will zone in on the area lakes that we have to fish, and hopefully have a recent ice report for everyone. Enjoy the holiday season, and make time for some “safe” ice fishing if you can.

Contact Todd Reed at and visit