Ice fishing. (DNR photo)

Some lakes and ponds in northern Iowa already have ice thick enough to support ice fishing, while elsewhere, you can still see open water.

Joe Larscheid, chief of the Iowa DNR Fisheries Bureau, says it’s early in the season and Iowans who love ice fishing have to be patient — or head north. Larscheid says Iowans are a hardy people and despite the frigid temperatures, they love ice fishing.

He calls the sport the great equalizer. “You don’t need any special equipment,” Larscheid says. “Using the maps that are online at our DNR website, you can find the habitat and the deep-water spots and all of that stuff in ponds. You don’t need a boat. You can go right out to those spots, use your phone to find the exact spot, drill a hole and you’ll be right on top of the fish.”

It’s still technically fall, as the first day of winter this year is December 21st. Especially when it’s this early, ice anglers need to make sure safety is their top priority, and there are a few simple rules to follow. “Go out with a person that you know and trust, and drill a lot of holes as you venture out onto the ice and verify that it’s at least four to six inches thick of clear, hard ice,” Larscheid says. “I, personally, won’t go out until it’s six inches, but four inches of clear, hard ice is considered safe.” He’s quick to add, no ice is 100% safe, while new ice is usually stronger than old ice.

The DNR says river ice is 15% weaker than lake ice, while ice with a bluish color is safer than clear ice. Larscheid says ice anglers should never go out alone, and always let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll return. “It’s good to have a ‘throwable,’ an inflatable thing so if you do fall through, you won’t sink,” he says, “and a rope that a buddy can toss you in case something happens.”

The DNR recommends a minimum of four inches of clear ice for fishing and at least five inches for snowmobiles and ATVs. Larscheid also suggests wearing a life jacket, bringing a whistle to call for help, and an extra set of clothes, including gloves. The DNR offers a weekly fishing report that’s online at:

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