Anglers urged to use caution on the iceEven though no snow is on the ground there is ice on the water, and as ice fishing season heats up, officials urge anglers to use caution. “Theoretically ice is never really safe,” said Gene Van Eeckhout, fisheries supervisor for the Jamestown office of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “You have to use common sense when you venture out.”
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
Even though no snow is on the ground there is ice on the water, and as ice fishing season heats up, officials urge anglers to use caution.
“Theoretically ice is never really safe,” said Gene Van Eeckhout, fisheries supervisor for the Jamestown office of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “You have to use common sense when you venture out.”
Van Eckhout said certain areas on the James and Pipestem reservoirs currently have between 2 and 5 inches of ice which is considered safe enough to support a person.
According to the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, 3 inches is the minimum amount to support a snowmobile or a group of people walking in a single file line. Seven inches will support a single passenger vehicle and 8 inches will support a 2 1/2-ton truck.
While the Jamestown or Pipestem reservoirs aren’t completely frozen over, ice has formed on some areas by the shore and the island.
Releases from Jamestown Reservoir are at 80 cubic feet per second and releases from Pipestem are at 50 cfs, said Bob Martin, Pipestem Dam manager. This could result in thin spots of ice.
“If we’re releasing water that means there’s moving water in both reservoirs, and that usually has an effect on the ice because the moving water won’t normally freeze the ice as thick as it would if there’s no current in the reservoirs,” Martin said.
At Pipestem there is warm water flowing into the reservoir. The influx of warm water is keeping the lake from freezing over completely, he said.
“They’re (anglers) venturing out on it but 200 yards away there’s 5 acres of open water out there,” Martin said.
There are several other concerns to note for ice safety, according to Allen Schlag, hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck.
“A lot of times people on this early ice season tend to think ‘if I stay close to shore I’m safe.’ That’s the worst case scenario if the shore is falling,” he said “It’s also good practice to go onto the ice in a very direct path and once out there you can consider paralleling the shoreline. But stay away from the shoreline to avoid any of that bridged ice.”
Once Jamestown gets snow it’s important to note it acts as an insulator, Schlag said. This means under heavy snow will be thinner ice.
“This is something that most experienced ice fisherman should know already,” he said.
Schlag also stressed common sense when venturing out on the ice. Go with friends, bring a rope and ice pick and check the thickness to avoid falling through.
As winter progresses he also recommends anglers on the ice be aware of pressure ridges which form when the ice contracts or expands along with the weather.
It’s not uncommon to have 8 feet of open water between two sheets of 3-foot-thick ice.
Good ice is clear with no air bubbles and is smooth, he said.
Ice bridges are also a concern. This happens when water levels decrease throughout the winter and ice on the shoreline becomes tilted. This creates an ice bridge and can allow for air between the water and ice, which is dangerous, Schlag said.
Regardless of the conditions, Schlag said ice anglers will find a reason to venture out. He just stressed common sense when they do so.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at email@example.com