Make smart decisions on the hard water
By now, most ice fisherman from the area have heard about some of the problems that have occurred with a few fish houses on some of the area lakes. The number one problem that has drawn the most attention has been the fish houses that have broken through the ice.
We have continued with mild temperatures for this time of year, with no stretches of below zero weather that really builds up our ice. Most of the area lakes are limited to ATV, snowmobile, or light car/truck traffic. Large truck traffic needs to stay off the ice until we have a solid 15 inches. Remember to slow down -- and remind others. There's a 15 mph max speed limit on the ice. Driving faster than 15 mph can create a wake under the ice that can blow out the ice, especially when we have the ice thicknesses we do at this time.
The ice on most area lakes is able to support the permanent fish houses. Common sense just needs to be part of the equation for safety sake. A series of different scenarios or a combination of them can create the problems. The first is leaving the heat on in the fish house without continuing to monitor the ice depth under the house. This, along with the solar heating of the house from bright sun and warmer temperatures can deteriorate the ice under and around the fish house. When the conditions are the way they have been, you need to check your house out frequently even if it isn't heated. The solar effects alone can cause a problem with the ice in these conditions. If you start to get thin ice or flooding, move the house to a fresh location. Getting too many houses and/or vehicle traffic close together can bow or sink the ice.
Wet ice deteriorates and weakens the ice. If you are experiencing flooding or wet conditions around your fish house, consider moving it to a new location, you can move it back to that spot if it re-freezes and is solid for ice depth and quality. If it is still good depth under the house, make sure you block it up and get it out of the water so that when it does freeze you haven't made a bunch of work for yourself and others to chisel it out.
If it gets crowded in your area, don't be so stubborn that you put yourself or your fish house at risk. Move away from the crowd or ask them politely and respectfully not to crowd you due to the risk that it is creating.
Some people just truly don't know how to read the signs of risk on the ice. Help educate them for yours, theirs, and others safety. Pay attention when you auger your holes. If water comes out onto the surface and flows or floods the area, move yourself to an area that you are not bowing the ice.
If you are leaving on a trip it is best to remove your house or have someone in charge of taking care of it for you while you are gone.
At some point this winter we should get a real Minnesota winter. When we get some of the real cold and get ourselves 15-20 inches or more of ice everyone will feel a little better about the ice fishing season until we start getting the spring thaw. Until then, make sure you make good decisions on the hard water.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)