Knowing your ice

Austin M.
Austin M. Davis
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Many got an early start on the ice fishing season

Moose Jaw's Otto Micheletti enjoys gazing down the hole and catching perch at Buffalo Pound Lake on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012.

By last week, Darrell Crabbe had already been ice fishing more than twice.

“There’s a lot of speculation on what you classify as safe,” Crabbe said. “Normally, the rule of thumb is to drive out on a foot of ice, but it has to be consistent.”

Crabbe, executive director of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, said Buffalo Pound had pretty consistent ice on the lake, but as of the last week in November there was only about nine inches of ice.

“Certainly it looked like quads were moving around quite well. There were a few people pulling their shacks out with shacks which might be a little questionable,” Crabbe said.

According to him, Buffalo Pound Lake doesn’t have a lot of water movement that would cause less ice build-up in one particular area.

“The other safety hazards on any body of water, when you’re travelling on the ice, is heaves,” Crabbe said. “A heave is just where the ice has relieved the pressure from its development. It’s similar to what an earthquake would do where one plate slides over the other plate.”

That spot on the lower side of the heave could potentially collapse under any weight, unless it’s refrozen.

He said ice fishermen should also be cautious of any discoloured ice.

The most dangerous threats to safety on the ice are in terms of mobility.

Crabbe said preventing hypothermia is important, but most people who venture out to ice-fish know to dress warm and avoid being exposed to the winds. That’s what the shacks are for.

“Quite a few people now have converted campers that they pull around, and there are spots in the floor that you can lift up and drill down,” Crabbe said.

He said the weight displacement on the campers is probably no different from a vehicle.

While Buffalo Pound may have been safe for the eager ice fishers to venture out on, Crabbe warned of the unreliable ice conditions at Last Mountain Lake and Lake Diefenbaker.

Organizations: Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation

Geographic location: Buffalo Pound Lake, Last Mountain Lake, Lake Diefenbaker

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