It was the end of January, but not the end of the harshest winter in my 12 years residing in Wallowa County. Honestly, with the long “cold snaps” freezing even the City water mains, I’m surprised it hadn’t froze sooner. It was the talk of the town, how folks were venturing out onto the ice. (This was usually accompanied by worried looks.) The Joseph Fire Department even invested in some arctic water rescue suits.
Since I’d missed the last freeze, I wanted to take advantage. I started by researching online, just how thick ice should be to be “safe.” I found the Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources site very educational. (Minnesota should know a thing or two about ice, I’d wager.) Their guideline was for 4 inches of new, clear ice for walking & ice fishing. Double that if it’s cloudy or ‘snow ice.’
I brought my drill, tape measure, safety line, and sled, and fully intended to gauge the depth for myself. Once there, however, I found an ice fisherman parked a few hundred yards out in the middle of the lake. “Free hole!” I thought, so we walked out ahead to the guy. The trees were frosted from the cold freezing fog, and gave the surrounding moraines a fresh beauty.
He was happy to comply, and we measured the hole at 10” thick. “Heck,” I thought, “I don’t care how clear it is at that depth!” This wise gentleman was also willing to impart some sage ice-fishing wisdom. He had a nice pile of fish, and showed how his radar depth finder had an advantage. Instead of just reading depth of the bottom, and of fish, it was sensitive enough to register the spoon on his line, so he could be sure it was just at the right depth, clever.
Having determined it was safe to play on, I returned to the family. We proceeded to go for a stroll around the lake. Though I had been kayaking on the South end, it really feels bigger on foot. By the time you read this, the ice has already started to break up. That just means we need to go throw rocks at the sheets, and listen to the acoustic sounds they make!
Enjoy your Spring!