By DUANE NOLLEN
The Oskaloosa Herald
---- — OSKALOOSA — Ice fishing and other winter activities draw people near water and there are several safety topics people need to review before they head outside.
Ice fishing is a popular sport that lasts all winter.
“Once the ice gets to 4 to 5 inches of good, clear ice, it lasts until the ice starts to deteriorate,” Mahaska County Conservation Board Director Dave Sedivec said. When ice deteriorates, “it will have a dark, cloudy color,” he added.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources ice thickness guidelines are: If ice is 2 inches or less, stay off; if ice is 4 inches thick, it is safe for ice fishing or other activities on foot; 5 inches is good for snowmobiles or ATVs; 8 inches to 12 inches can support a car or small pickup truck; and 12 to 15 inches can support a medium truck.
A determining factor for ice thickness is if the water is a pond vs a river.
“Moving water doesn’t freeze as hard,” Sedivec said. “If there is a spring coming up in a pond, the spring will make the ice weaker.”
Snow cover also determines ice thickness.
“If ice forms and you get a layer of snow on it, the snow will act as an insulator and the ice will form more slowly,” Sedivec said.
Ice thickness can vary on a body of water too.
A beaver or muskrat run will cause the ice to be thinner, Sedivec said. Also, geese that live at Lake Keomah can make the ice thinner where they naturally gather, he added.
“Ice can be thinner closer to shore,” Sedivec said. Things like trees, poles sticking out of the water or the shore absorbs the sun’s heat and causes ice to be thinner, he added.
Sedivec advises people to not go out on ice alone. Also, they should carry some basic gear to help themselves if they fall through ice.
People should take a length of rope to throw to someone who falls through ice. They also should pack ice spikes to wear around their neck. If they fall in, they can use the spikes to pull themselves out of the water. People should also carry cellphones in a sealed plastic bag to protect them from water.
Sedivec said he has fallen through beaver and muskrat runs before, but luckily the water was not deep. “I’ve seen vehicles go under,” he added.
Sedivec said he is not aware of anyone in Mahaska County falling through ice during the current winter.
“We encourage people to go ice fishing, but to do it safely,” he said. “We always want to error on the side of caution.”
“The fishing has been good around here,” he added.
The Iowa DNR has a fishing report that can be found on its website at iowadnr.gov, Sedivec said. Also, the local bait shop is an excellent source of information regarding ice conditions, he added.