Back on the Hardwater
After getting on the ice for the first time this season in late October, a miserable warm-up that lasted two weeks quickly melted all ice in the area. Luckily, temperatures finally dipped, and the higher elevations had below freezing temps which refroze the smaller ponds quickly. But which ones were ready and which ones were not was the question? So, a couple of buddies and I did some exploring several days ago to find small ponds that we could get on. What followed was a day of driving around, using the spud bar a lot, and catching a few fish.
Now I cannot recommend enough that it is probably in the better interest for most to not seek out first ice until you know for sure it is at least 4". The three of us took the necessary precautions and had float suits, ice picks, safety ropes, and a spud bar to check the conditions. Out of five ponds we checked, only one had 4" of the ice. The rest......well, not as much. Unless you take the most extreme precautions, it would be better to wait for thicker ice. The morning started on Mitchell Lake, which we fished on for about 90 minutes, bringing up one fish before we moved on. Sylvan Lake was next, but it was still half open and what was frozen did not feel safe to walk on past five feet from shore. Sunday Gulch was next, and we fished a small area that had just enough ice where we were not too worried. Again, only 1 fish. From here, Anthony headed back to town and Matt and I continued our quest.
We checked out Roubaix next and thought we could get on. But after getting on its ice and spudding out a little way, I determined it was not quite ready to stay on yet. Close, but not worth the higher risk than we were already taking. So, our finally location was Dalton Lake. Here we found clear ice and was right at 4" thick. We finished our day here with Matt catching several, his first fish of the season. Out of five spots, three were fishable and would at least remain that way since temperatures were not going to be getting too cold or too warm for the next few weeks.
Again, safety was paramount to us and we did not spare any tool to make sure that we had the best chance to both get on the ice and to get out of it should the worst have happened. I cannot stress enough that on first ice, you need to make sure you have at least 3 things with you--a float suit, ice picks, and a spud bar. My spud bar is probably my most important tool right now. If it goes through after two hard hits, the ice is not good enough yet. This is how I judge first ice, but in no way should it be everyone's. If you do not feel comfortable being out on thinner ice, do not go onto it. Some of my friends and I are extremely hardcore ice anglers and are willing to take a chance. But we take all safety precautions. For most people, it is best to wait a bit longer. It is coming iceheads! Just need a little more patience.