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Don't make waves--slow down on the ice

Fishing Columnist Brad Laabs

The polar vortex that has kept us in this major cold front the last 10 days is finally moving on. The benefit has been the additional ice thickness added to area lakes.

Most lakes range from 18-24 inches now, and ice is continuing to build. These thicknesses, along with manageable snow levels, make vehicle, sled, or wheeler travel available. You can get to almost any area you would like to travel to right now.

Ice is never perfectly safe, so still use caution and common sense. Check conditions and stay away from current areas. It is still a good idea not to crowd areas. If you have flooding, slushing, or water coming up through your holes, the ice is sagging from weight and it is a good idea to move.

When traveling on ice with a vehicle, open windows and take your safety belt off. Some advisors even recommend cracking a door open....(I don't know about that, but, whatever makes you feel more comfortable traveling on ice). The other very important neglected respect that gets ignored way too often, is traveling speed on the ice. SLOW DOWN ON THE ICE!

The max speed should only be about 20 mph, and that is on three feet of ice. The less ice, the slower you need to travel. On 18-24 inches, you should be driving 10-15 mph in a vehicle. Cars and trucks are heavy and will push a wave under the ice. If you are going too fast, that wave can fracture the ice. We have a lot more ice traffic now as this sport grows. Many drive too fast due to lack of ice education and awareness.

Set an example and educate others. Those that drive to fast make potentially hazardous conditions for others, not just themselves. If you are pulling a fish house, you have even more weight and need to slow down. The last 10 years we have seen a huge growth in the modern fish house industry. Many of these are 18-24 feet now, with all the modern features that make them mobile homes and campers on ice. They weight a lot, require more ice to set, and need to be moved around with common sense. Ice roads are not highways.

With the increased ice traffic of the last couple weeks, garbage left on the lakes, at the access points, and on adjacent roads has started to show up again. It baffles me how some can just leave a mess for others to clean up! This behavior does not reflect well on the sport. It only takes a few to create a bad image for the many. Please don't be "that guy (or gal)" Pack out what you pack in, including your wood blocks.

Spear fisherman also need to make sure blocks of ice are not left out as a hazard to others. Knock them down and break them up. Snow can drift and cover them. For some that travel at night on the lakes they can disappear. These hazards can do damage to vehicles, sleds, and wheelers, as well as potentially injuring someone. Snowmobilers travel these lakes for recreation as well as ice fishing, and they can travel fast across these lakes. Act like what you do is not just all about you. The "Golden Rule" applies to the ice as well as the rest of our lives.

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide service in Detroit Lakes)