It’s been a mild weather spell throughout the year-end holidays, good for travelers but bad for fans of winter sports. The Department of Natural Resources’ Mick Klemesrud says ice on most lakes and rivers is not yet strong enough to hold an angler, let alone a fishing house. In mild years like this he says fans of fishing just can’t find ice to support them, at least not south of about Highway 20 and even north of that it’s not guaranteed it’ll be thick enough. There is a requirement that you have any permanent ice shelter off the waterway by February 20, though in cold years with a lot of thick ice that date can be pushed back. But there is no law telling how early in the winter you can go out onto the ice, and Klemesrud says it takes common sense. There are some guidelines, like waiting till it’s four inches thick and cutting frequent test holes, but people are expected to use their own judgment when they go to push something out onto the ice. An avid fisherman, Klemesrud says the ice thickens varies greatly even on the same body of water. But he says you can’t tell that by just looking. If there’s any moving water under the ice, a reservoir or backwater where there’s a current, the ice will be thinner there. He says be brings an auger and tape-measure himself to measure ice thickness, and says while November brought a promising cold spell, recent warm weather has many waterways offering “pretty lousy ice.” Earlier this week, an Iowa man fell through ice on a fishing expedition near St. Cloud, Minnesota, and had to be pulled to shore by a passerby.
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