JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Inconsistencies in ice thickness could pose a danger to ice fishermen heading to the lakes this holiday weekend, according to B.J. Kratz, district fisheries supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Jamestown.
Recent above average temperatures have reduced or eliminated ice on some lakes, although cold weather forecast for later this week will begin to make ice.
“There is some open water in a lot of lakes,” he said. “It is going to take more cold weather to create good ice in open water areas now.”
Daytime highs in the single digits above zero and nighttime lows below zero are in the National Weather Service forecasts for several days beginning Thursday, Dec. 21.
The cold weather will add thickness to the areas where there is currently ice, Kratz said. Areas with open water will build ice slowly and might only form an inch or two of ice in the first days of the cold snap. Areas of new ice might not be safe to walk on until the cold weather has persisted for several days, Kratz said.
“The problem is if people are not familiar with the lakes,” he said. “They don’t know the ice conditions.”
A news release from the Game and Fish Department warned winter fishermen to use caution.
“Ice shouldn’t be judged by appearance alone,” the release said. “Anglers should drill test holes as they make their way out on the lake, and an ice chisel should be used to check ice thickness while moving around.”
The Game and Fish Department recommends a minimum of 4 inches of ice for a group of people walking single file, 6 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle, 8 to 12 inches for an automobile and 12 to 15 inches for a pickup.
“However, early in the winter, it’s a good idea to double these figures to be safe,” the press release said.
People on the ice are urged to avoid areas of snow cover that can inhibit solid ice formation, areas of cracks or pressure ridges or any area that appears slushy, according to the Game and Fish Department.
Kratz said some local lakes have other issues that can contribute to dangerous ice conditions.
“Most folks are aware the deeper lakes like Spiritwood are the last to freeze,” he said. “The springs that feed water into Pipestem (Dam) make the ice variable there.”
So far, area ice fishermen have stayed off the lakes.
“The (Game) wardens indicate very little ice fishing activity so far,” Kratz said. “It will pick up when the ice thickens enough to drive on it.”