By David Hotle, The JOURNAL
Washington County Conservation director Steve Anderson said that the ice on the lakes in Washington County is more than dense enough for people to ice fish on, but the excessive cold of the past few weeks has kept many people from ice fishing.
Still, Anderson said that he has seen the tracks left by people who have been ice fishing on just about every Washington County lake, although he has not spoken with any. Anderson has been out fishing himself and said the fish are biting and the sport is providing plenty of excitement.
?Even though it wasn?t crowded the fishing was fun,? Anderson said. ?I was on Lake Darling and then a couple of our ponds and they have good strong ice to walk on.?
Anderson reported catching his limit of crappies at Lake Darling and catching several bluegills and bass on county ponds. He said all the ponds Washington County manages are open for fishing. He said Willow and Foster ponds are both good fishing spots.
He said soon after Christmas the ice depth exceeded the two-inch safety depth. Now the ice is deep enough that a group of people can go on the ice together safely.
Anderson said there is clothing available that will keep ice fishermen warm even in subzero cold like the area has been seeing. He also said ice fishing shelters help keep the wind out and that a heater can be used inside to keep warm. According to the National Weather Service, the temperatures will warm up into the high 30s over the weekend and through next week.
People who choose to go onto the ice need to take care in evaluating the safety of the ice each time they go out, he said. Anderson recommends people going onto the ice wear ice picks and bring a flotation device and a rope. He also said having another person to watch is a good idea. He said when the ice breaks from the shoreline, the ice is usually not thick enough for a person.
If someone breaks through the ice, he said after they climb out of the lake, they should remain in a prone position and crawl back to shore to distribute weight over a greater surface area. He also said the person should get to a warm place quickly before hypothermia sets in.
?Risking your life to catch some fish ... I don?t know why you would do that,? he said.
Returning this year for the first time in three years, the conservation department will hold its annual ice fishing clinic at 1 p.m. on Jan. 13 at Marr Park. The event has been canceled for the last two years because the temperature was so warm the ice on Marr Park lake was not safe to walk on.