Deer season, pheasant season, duck season and now ice fishing is knocking on the door. But how safe is the ice and how can you know what’s safe and what’s unsafe. To get all the answers, techniques and methods of checking ice I had to contact the Fish Whisperer, Jon McCorkle, and here is 70 years of expertise talking!
“One of the ways we used to check if the ice was thick enough to walk on when we were kids was to jump on it. With age came more wisdom. We learned to throw rocks down onto ice to see if they would break through. If that succeeded we sent out the smallest guy. Next we would send out the biggest guy. If all the testing progressed successfully we would all venture out slowly and start jumping on it. With age came more wisdom and closer supervision from wiser adults.”
Jon added, “When we became adults we realized we were lucky to have survived and the water beneath the ice was darned cold. As adults we may still throw rocks to test the ice, but we no longer send out the smallest guy next. We send out the biggest and tallest guy, hoping if he breaks through more of him will be sticking out of the water and we can also see how deep the water is.”
“Eventually the big, tall guy figured out that it’s a good idea to use an ice chisel to test the ice ahead of him. This system seems to work pretty well, but we can’t seem to get him to test the strength of the ice by jumping on it after he breaks through a couple times. It’s getting harder to find good ice testers anymore. I try to introduce a big tall guy to early ice fishing every year or so. Ya got to keep the sport alive, don’t ya know. Sometimes I can talk him into making duck drives but they’ll complain about not being able to keep their powder dry. It’s really hard to keep an early ice fishing partner. Most of them want to wait for plow trucks to be driving all over the lake. Where is the adventure in that? I’m really going to have to find some younger, big, tall guys that have never experienced the adventure of first ice,” said Jon.
“You haven’t lived until you get out there on the first ice that is crystal clear and you can actually see the fish swimming under your feet and hopefully not with you. If you do actually hook into a fish it’s like looking over a cliff when you first see the fish. It’s the sensation like when someone sneaks up behind you and gives you a shove when you’re looking over a cliff. It scares you! Hopefully the fish is coming to you and not the other way around.”
Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org