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Ice Anglers Beware: Windmills Can Mean Danger

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fishing - Region 6

It’s that time of year when ice anglers begin appearing on Montana's waters for the ice fishing season.
 
While there is some fishable ice in some areas already, it will take continued stable, cold weather, for conditions to improve on larger water bodies. While the first ice of the year often offers some of the best fishing, it also can be quite variable from location to location and from day to day.
 
The variability of ice conditions cannot be over-estimated, and the safest ice anglers are those who are particular about their ice and who pay as much attention to the condition of the ice as they do the fishing conditions. Dressing to help prevent frostbite and hypothermia is also a basic rule, as is knowledge of ice safety and ice rescue.
 
Anglers should be familiar with the water body they plan to fish, or go with someone who knows that water and how ice tends to form and change there. In FWP Region 6, there are dozens of water bodies that have windmills out in the water to help keep dissolved oxygen flowing to fish and other aquatic life during the long winter months, said Havre-area Biologist Cody Nagel.
 
“Anglers need to be extra careful about venturing onto any ice where these windmills are operating because the action of the aerators can weaken the ice,” Nagel said. “A good rule of thumb is that if you see a windmill operating out on a pond or reservoir, you should keep away from it as far as you can.”   
 
Other common ice-safety reminders to keep in mind include:
·         Check in with a local sport shop or bait shop before you set out for a trip. They may have up-to-date information to share about the places you plan to fish.
·         Check out ice conditions before you go. Ask other anglers or local sources and take into account changes in the weather during the past 24 hours.
·         If you have even the slightest doubt about the safety of the ice—stay off it. No fish is ever worth a fall into frigid water.
·         It's OK to wear a life jacket (PFD) or carry a throwable floatation device while out on the ice — safe ice-anglers do it all the time.
·         Wear a warm hat that covers your ears. In cold weather, 75 to 80 percent of heat loss from the body occurs from an uncovered head.
·         Wear mittens – they are warmer than gloves and reduce the chance of finger frostbite.
·         Before you head from home, tell someone where you plan to fish and when you plan to return.
·         Carry a pair of long spikes on a heavy string around your neck. That way, if you break through the ice, you can use the spikes to grip the ice and pull yourself out of the water.
 
And when on the ice, remember:
·         Blue ice is usually hard. Watch out for opaque, gray, dark or porous spots in the ice that could be weak, soft areas. Ice also tends to thin more quickly at the shorelines.
·         Watch for pressure ridges. These are areas of open water or thin ice where the ice has cracked and heaved due to expansion from freezing.
·         Test the ice ahead of you with an ice spud bar or an auger.
·         Don’t leave children unsupervised on the ice.
·         Lakes and ponds do not freeze at the same thickness all over.
·         Moving water—rivers, streams and springs—weaken ice by wearing it away from underneath. Avoid ice on rivers and streams, or where a river or stream enters a lake, pond or reservoir.
·         The least safe ice usually occurs early and late in the season, when the weather is warmer.