With the cold spell, all area waters are covered in ice with some having about five inches of good ice, while others have unsafe ice. When deciding whether to venture upon the ice or not, drill a test hole just a couple of feet from shore.
Generally this time of year the ice is thicker closer to shore and thinner as you move away. So if you are the first one on the ice drill test holes as you move further on the ice to make sure. As a general rule, trout will be found in about 6 to 10 feet of water this time of year so you don’t need to venture out too far to find fish.
Anglers should carry some basic safety gear with them when venturing upon the ice and should never fish alone in case there is an accident.
There is certain safety equipment that should be included whenever someone ventures on the ice. Ice claws should be worn by everyone on the ice. Ice claws can be purchased at a sporting goods store or made using two pieces of one and a half inch diameter dowel (or pieces of a broom handle) about six inches long, with a large nail imbedded into one end of each dowel or broom handle. Join the two pieces of dowel using 3 to 4 feet of heavy cord or light rope that goes through the dowels at the opposite end from the nails.
The rope joining the two claws together should go through both sleeves of the jacket and across the back, allowing them to be readily available if you go through the ice. Just like seat belts and personal flotation devices, they don’t do you any good if they aren’t being worn when you fall through the ice.
If you should fall through the ice, stay calm. Don’t take winter clothing off, as it will help keep warmth in and may add some buoyancy.
When trying to get out, return in the direction from which you fell, the ice there is more likely to be thicker and able to support you better as you try to get out. Ice near open water is slippery and hard to get traction on, so use your legs to help you onto the ice with a swim-type kicking motion. Grip an ice claw in each hand, sticking the nail end into the ice and pull yourself to safety. Once on the ice remain in a prone position, spreading your weight over a larger area, until reaching ice that will definitely support you.
If a companion should fall through the ice, don’t approach the edge to try to help them; your role may quickly change from rescuer to victim. Never try to rescue them alone unless absolutely necessary. Get help.
Use a rope, stick, fishing rod, or some other long item to try to reach them from safe ice. As stated earlier, stay in a prone position, spreading your wait over a larger area while trying to help someone who has fallen through. Once safety is reached, treat for hypothermia.
There are other safety items that should be taken along. A rope for throwing to someone who has fallen through the ice is a good idea. Put a loop and a large knot at one end because cold hands don’t grip very well. A floating seat cushion from a boat can be thrown to someone in the water. It can be used to sit on until needed for an emergency.
As of Wednesday, Wildhorse had approximately five 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. With the cold forecast temperatures the ice should start to thicken substantially as long as we don’t get too much snow on top of the ice to insulate it. 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. It is not recommended that you take an ATV or snowmobile on the lake at this time.
SOUTH FORK RESERVOIR
South Fork is completely covered with unsafe ice. With the lower elevation and southwest exposure anglers should wait until New Years before venturing upon South Fork.
Jiggs is iced over with very unsafe ice. NDOW runs an aerator through the winter to keep winter mortality on the fish down making this reservoir unsafe for ice fishing. There won’t be a fishing report until spring.
No recent report, but conditions here are often similar to South Fork, so expect it to be covered with unsafe ice. Anglers should also expect 4WD roads only due to snow.
RUBY LAKE NWR
The south marsh is frozen near the boat ramp with unsafe ice. The collection ditch is also freezing over, though open water can be found in the pond behind the hatchery and wherever there are springs in the ditch. Small spinners, minnow imitators, nymphs and buggers are the way to go now. As of the writing of this report, it was still snowing, so no report on whether Harrison Pass will be open this weekend.
JAKES CREEK/BOIES RESERVOIR
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.
COLD CREEK RESERVOIR
No recent report. At last report the lake was approximately 85 percent ice. Consider the ice unsafe.
Cave Lake is covered with ice that is approximately four to five inches of good clear ice. Care should still be taken. However, with forecast cold nights in single digits to teens, ice thickness should continue to grow.
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. With cold overnight lows forecast in the single digits to teens over the next week, expect ice to slowly grow in thickness. Drill test holes before going out too far! That being said, a couple of anglers hit the ice in the narrows (4.5 inches) and had three trout chunky trout averaging about 17 inches.