Castleton, VT- Ahead of Vermont’s Free Ice Fishing Day this weekend officials are reminding people what steps to take to be sure the ice is safe.
After a warmer December, Fish & Wildlife officials are telling people to keep ice safety at the forefront of their minds. Education Specialist Corey Hart said, “Conditions really vary across the state right now, but it really comes down to knowing how to check ice conditions when you’re out there. The basic safety principles we follow are all the same.”
Hart says an essential safety tool for ice fishers is a spud bar, a long piece of steel that can be used to check the strength of the ice. “I’m going to put this in the ice. If it goes through, go back,” Hart said.
At least four inches of ice is ideal to hold the weight of a person, but Hart notes you should only measure clear ice. Hart says when snow melts on top of the ice and freezes again, it creates “cloudy ice,” which has a lot of air bubbles in it and makes for weaker ice.
A safety device that all ice fishers should have is an ice pick, which Hart says should be worn around the neck at all times. Anyone who falls through the ice can pull themselves back out using their ice pick.
A throw rope is another tool that could help save someone’s life should an ice fisher go under. Hart says throwing a throw rope from the shore can help safely pull someone out of the water.
Ice conditions vary across the state, for example, Hart said that Lake Bomoseen in Castleton only froze over in the last week, while lakes in the Northeast Kingdom have been frozen for some time. Hart said, “Not all ice is the same, I might have four inches here, I could walk over that way a little bit, and be on top of two inches.”
He recommends checking with local bait shops to get up-to-date information from everyday anglers.
To celebrate Free Ice Fishing Day, Vermont Fish & Wildlife is holding an Ice Fishing Festival at Elmore State Park. The festival will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is free and open to all ages.
There will be hot cocoa and a fish fry station so people can have their catch cooked up for lunch. People are encouraged to bundle up for the cold, and ice cleats are recommended. There is also a virtual ice fishing festival for people who can’t attend in person.
Hart says Lake Elmore has good conditions for the festival. “We do this to get people out there,” said Hart, “so hopefully, if you’ve never fished before, you can team up with someone with experience and they can show you the ropes, and hopefully you’ll buy a license further down the line.”