HARRISBURG, PA — During this first week of winter, The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) reminds anglers to keep safety in mind while enjoying ice fishing.
While some northern counties have already experienced cold enough temperatures to produce several inches of ice on a handful of lakes and ponds, most regions of the Commonwealth don’t typically begin to see safe ice fishing conditions, if at all, until the period from late December to mid-January.
“Ice fishing is a great, inexpensive way to get outdoors in the winter and can produce both large numbers of fish and larger individual fish,” said Andy Shiels, PFBC Deputy Director for Field Operations. “It can be an escape for anglers seeking peace and quiet, or it can turn into a real social event. Often, friends and family will gather in groups to ice fish, tell stories and eat food in a tailgate-type setting.”
While ice fishing can be a fun and rewarding activity for people of all ages, every venture out onto the ice should begin by following several safety steps:
- Always wear a lifejacket or float coat while on the ice. Avoid inflatable lifejackets, which do not perform well in freezing temperatures.
- When arriving at the water’s edge, visually survey the ice. Look for open water areas and signs of recent changes in water levels. Ice sloping down from the bank can indicate a recent drop in water level, while wet areas on the ice can indicate a rise in water level.
- Listen for loud cracks or booms coming from the ice. This can be an indicator of deteriorating ice.
- Look for new ice, which is clear or has a blue tint. New ice is stronger than old ice, which can appear white or gray.
- Remember that ice thickness is not consistent across the surface of the lake or pond.
- Beware of ice around partially submerged objects such as trees, brush, embankments or structures. Ice will not form as quickly where water is shallow or where objects may absorb heat from sunlight.
- Anglers should use an ice staff to probe ahead as they walk. If the ice staff punches through, retreat to shore slowly.
- Always carry a pair of ice awls, which are handheld spikes. Ice awls can assist in performing a self-rescue, in which the spikes are driven into the ice to help someone pull themselves out of the water.
- Never walk on ice that has formed over moving water such as a river or stream.
- Never go out on ice alone.
- Always let someone know your plans and when you expect to return.
Those who are new to ice fishing can get started by visiting the PFBC’s Ice/Winter Fishing webpage. A list of PA’s Best Fishing Waters and maps of submerged habitat structures is also available.
Source: Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
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