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Joe's Fishing Hole: Know the symptoms of hypothermia

Courtesy of
The Elko Daily Free Press

This is the last fishing report of the year and hope everyone has a safe New Year’s weekend. Last week we talked about ice safety so this week let’s explore hypothermia.

Hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature falls below 95 degrees, only three degrees below normal. If the body continues to cool, blood is withdrawn from the extremities to the core to keep the vital organs and brain alive. Wet, cool conditions are generally the cause of hypothermia.

Staying dry and dressing in layers with clothing appropriate for the weather is the best way to prevent hypothermia. Some synthetics such as polypropolene as a base layer can wick moisture away from the body, keeping the skin dry.

Soft, fine wools, such as merino wool, also make good base layers as they retain heat even when wet. Modern techniques combined with the merino wool make this base layer soft and supple, not scratchy like the wool of our grandfathers.

Outer layers of wool, over either the synthetics or natural wool base layer, help hold heat in even if wet. Avoid cotton clothing at all costs, including cotton long underwear, which hold water but provide no heat when wet. The body loses heat 24 times faster than normal when wet. An uncovered head loses 40 percent of the body’s heat, so make sure to wear a hat.

The first, and often the only symptoms a person suffering from hypothermia will recognize are shivering, numb hands and lack of dexterity. Even then these symptoms are often denied and ignored, so never enjoy the outdoors alone as it is easier to spot hypothermia in others than yourself.

After that, blue lips and fingernails, along with violent shivering, loss of muscular control and most importantly the ability to make rational decisions are symptoms that the victim has become moderately to severely hypothermic.

It is important to get the person warmed up as quickly as possible by getting them into dry clothes, in a sleeping bag or blanket, or using skin-to-skin contact with another person. Warm, sweet drinks provide heat to the core and may help release blood back out to the extremities.

Get them out of the wind and if possible into some form of shelter. Shelter can be anything from a sleeping bag, tent or even better, a vehicle with the heater on.

Since anglers are inherently on or near the water, great care must be taken to stay dry. By following a few simple rules like staying dry, never fishing alone, wearing appropriate clothing in layers and avoiding alcohol or other drugs, you can enjoy the outdoors, even when conditions deteriorate.


As of Wednesday, Wildhorse had approximately six to seven inches of good ice with a couple of inches of snow on top. The middle of the lake has thinner ice and anglers should stay close to shore for a bit. There are some major pressure ridges on the lake that contain areas of unsafe ice. Please stay away from them. As a general rule, anglers should find trout in six to 10 feet of water this time of year, so you don’t need to head to the middle. Trout fishing has been fair to good in eight to ten feet of water fishing halfway down in the water column. Garlic flavored PowerBait or eggs have been working well.


As of Thursday, the west half of the lake was mostly open water giving plenty of shore access along Jet Ski Beach for open water fishing. No report from anglers on fishing conditions, though expect it to be fair. If it gets any windier, expect more of the lake to open up. Any ice on the lake should be considered very unsafe!


The ice on Jiggs is not only unsafe, but with the wind, sun and warmer temperatures, some of it is downright poor. NDOW has also turned on the aerator which will open up some ice and make it even more dangerous. There won’t be a fishing report until spring.


No recent report, but conditions here are often similar to South Fork, so expect unsafe ice and possibly some open water. Anglers should also expect 4WD roads only due to snow and mud.


With temperatures warmer than forecast, the collection ditch is open and there is open water in Unit 21. Small spinners, minnow imitators, nymphs and buggers are the way to go now in the collection ditch.


Jakes Creek is covered with five inches of good hard clear ice. The ice is extremely slick, so take care walking o it. There were no signs of anyone fishing the lake so we have no report on fishing conditions.


No recent report. At last report the lake was approximately 85 percent ice. Consider the ice unsafe.


Last week Cave Lake was covered with approximately four to five inches of ice. However, temperatures in Ely have been higher than forecast and care should be taken when venturing on the ice. Drill some test holes. 


The ice at Comins is very patchy with some areas have four to five inches, with some open water near the dam. Stay away from this area. The lake level has come up a bit causing some open water along the edges, where the ice may actually be thinner. Drill test holes before going out too far! Those anglers who have fished through the ice have seen fair to good fishing for fish 16 to 18 inches. Worms and PowerBait have been productive.


Ice thickness at Illipah last week was 4.5 inches. Some water was visible along the shoreline in areas due to water still filling the reservoir. Anglers should be mindful of this water since it could weaken ice along the shoreline. No indication that anyone has ice fished here.

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