The recent blast of cold air (with more to come this week) is producing some ice on lakes and ponds, but mostly in the Pocono area. And it’s no secret that ice anglers are anxious to be able to walk on water for some early ice fishing. But early ice has its problems.
The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) says that no ice is 100 percent safe, especially early ice. And with a blanket of snow on top of an ice-covered lake, it actually insulates the ice and slows the growth of ice plus hides potential hazards or weak spots.
Signs to look for are ice with a bluish color that is safer than clear ice. Anglers should avoid slushy or honey-combed ice and it’s best to stay away from dark spots on the ice. The agency says don’t walk into areas where snow cover looks discolored. Any off-colored snow or ice is usually a sign of weakness.
Here are some other ice fishing safety tips from the PFBC:
*Test ice thickness with an auger before going farther out onto a lake. Four inches of solid ice is the minimum recommended thickness for a single person. Seven inches is the minimum for a small group.
*This last point brings up a suggestion to spread out. Concentrated crowds can put too much weight onto one area.
*Be aware of ice thickness across a body of water. Check ice thickness frequently. Perimeter ice is weaker due to shifting, expansion and sunlight reflecting off the bottom. New ice is usually stronger than old ice.
*Avoid areas with protruding logs, brush, plants and docks. These areas absorb heat, weakening the surrounding ice.
*Avoid areas with multiple or intersecting cracks and standing water over ice. If the ice doesn’t look right, don’t go on it.
*Always carry safety equipment such as ice picks, floatation device and safety rope, plus a whistle to call for help. A first aid kit wouldn’t be a bad idea as well.
*Let someone know where you are going and when you’ll return.
So far, the only lakes reporting any ice are the Tobyhanna with three inches as of last week and Promised Land Lake. Shohola too has some ice but no promising reports have surfaced as yet.
I took a ride to Leaser Lake in upper Lehigh County on Saturday and found that there’s only skim ice in the North cove.
The three Pocono waters mentioned and a few others should have more ice as forecasts are for below freezing temperatures for several says in the row. At that time, there should be some additional reports.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.