Safety tips for the early ice

In the past few years ice fishing has become one of my favorite outdoor sports. Immediately following the last day of deer season, I begin to pull out and organize all of my ice fishing gear. Most years, the ice is safe by the second to third week of December, but how do you determine whether the ice is safe or not?

Ice two inches thick or less is unsafe to be on and shouldn’t be walked on under any circumstance. To test the ice, you must first understand the different types. Ice tends to be layered and can be broken down into three categories. Hard or black ice is formed first, and consists of nothing more than frozen lake water. This is the strongest form of ice and can be skated or fished on safely when it reaches four inches.



When snow accumulates, the other two types of ice are created. The snow will melt and compact itself into a weaker layer. It looks a lot like a snow cone, and because of airs paces and a lack of complete compaction, this is the most weak form of ice. As it continues to melt and freeze, it will become the second layer which is of mid-grade strength. Simply put, the top layer is the weakest the mid layer is moderate and the lowest layer, which is in contact with the water, is the strongest. Four inches consisting of two inches of hard and two inches of snow cone ice will not be safe! You will need to wait for several freeze and thaw cycles to lock up the upper two inches.


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