Anglers are reminded to check local ice conditions before heading onto the ice to fish. Ice conditions can be variable — and deceptive.
• Ice does not freeze at a uniform thickness across most lakes and rivers. This can be hazardous at the start of the winter season when near-shore ice is often much thicker and safer than ice further out. Check thickness regularly with a spud bar or auger as you move further out on the ice.
• Not all ice is created equal. Ice that has formed over flowing water, springs, pressure cracks, old ice holes or around the mouths of rivers and streams can be weaker than surrounding ice. Clear blue ice is the strongest. White or opaque ice is much weaker. Ice that has a honeycombed look, common during thaws or in the spring, should be avoided.
• Travelling on frozen lakes or rivers with snowmobiles or vehicles can be dangerous and precautions must be taken. At least 20 centimetres (eight inches) of clear blue ice is required for snowmobiles and 30 centimetres (12 inches) or more is needed for most light vehicles. This thickness should be doubled if the ice is white or opaque.
• Heavy snow on a frozen lake or river can insulate the ice below and slow the freezing process.
Before venturing out:
• Check ice conditions with local ice hut operators or other anglers.
• Let others know where you’re planning to fish and when you plan to return.
• Appropriate clothing and equipment are critical to safety and comfort. Many anglers wear floatation suits and carry a set of ice picks.
• Register your ice hut, where required. There is no ice hut registration in northwest Ontario except for Lake Superior Fisheries Management Zone 9 in the Thunder Bay and Nipigon districts.
• For registration requirements, check the Ontario Fishing Regulations Summary: www.ontario.ca/travel-and-recreation/ontario-fishing-regulations-summary. Or contact your local ministry office: www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/ministry-natural-resources-regional-and-district-offices.
• If you’re heading out on a snowmobile, make sure you are being safe and responsible: www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/dandv/driver/handbook/section188.8.131.52.html.
Fact sheet courtesy of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Photo courtesy of Tony Bellissimo