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Cold Ice Means Hot Fishing

Ice Fishing for Yellow Perch at Fish Lake
Ice Fishing for Yellow Perch at Fish Lake

Winter is one of the best times to catch fish

Did you know that fishing through the ice is a great way to catch fish and beat the winter blues?

It's true-those "crazy" people you see standing on the ice aren't so crazy after all. They've discovered a fun way to get outside, breathe some fresh air and catch lots of fish.

Randy Oplinger, cold water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says ice fishing provides advantages you won't find during other times of the year. "And the fishing can be really good," he says.

You can stay updated on where fishing is best in Utah at www.wildlife.utah.gov/hotspots. Two additional websites-www.bigfishtackle.com and www.utahwildlife.net-also provide updated ice fishing information.

A cheap and fun way to fish

Oplinger says there are several reasons you should consider fishing on a frozen lake, reservoir or pond this winter: 

Great!  But how can I have fun if I'm cold?

Temperatures can be cold during the ice-fishing season. But that doesn't mean you have to be cold. You can stay warm simply by dressing for the conditions.

Oplinger says one piece of equipment anglers often forget is a pair of insulated, waterproof boots. As the day warms, slush can develop on top of the ice. "Having a pair of waterproof boots will keep your feet warm and dry," he says.

Also, wear your clothes in layers. That way, if the day warms up, you can remove a layer and still stay warm and comfortable.

Sounds great.  But isn't it hard to drill a hole through the ice?

One thing that surprises many first-time ice anglers is how easy it is to drill a hole through the ice.

If you have a hand auger with a sharp blade, you can drill through six to eight inches of ice in about a minute. "If you're using a digging bar," Oplinger says, "try to find some holes that were recently drilled. There's a chance the ice in those holes won't be very thick."

Digging bars cost between $5 and $10. Hand ice augers cost about $50.

Awesome.  But how do I know if the ice is safe to walk on?

Most anglers wait until the ice is at least 4 inches thick before walking on it.

Ice is usually thinnest near the shore. Before you walk very far, Oplinger says you should drill or dig a test hole to see how thick the ice is. You may also want to drill or dig some additional holes as you walk out.

If the ice is at least four inches thick-in the test holes you drill or dig close to shore-you can be almost certain that the ice farther out is at least four inches thick, or thicker.

Ice cleats and ice spikes

Ice cleats and ice spikes are two ice-related items you may want to consider buying:

If you fall through the ice, you can pull yourself out by jabbing the spikes into the top of the ice near the edge of the hole. Once the spikes are jabbed into the ice, use them to pull yourself out of the hole.

Part 2

Next week's story will focus on the equipment you'll need to catch fish through the ice.