Stay Warm And Safe: Essential Tips For Ice Fishing In Utah
I may I fact be a grumpy old man, but I don't spend a lot of time ice fishing like the two main characters from the movie series. But, I have been ice fishing, and as we make our way in to the winter of 2023-2024, opportunities for anglers to hit the ice are not that far off. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has provided information to help us have fun and safe outings as we ice fish.
And as it is, we happen to have some of the best ice fishing opportunities here in our backyard. Panguitch Lake attracts anglers all winter long, while just a little farther away there is great ice fishing at Fish Lake.
Staying safe is one of the most important aspects of ice fishing. Be sure to dress in layers and have all the needed equipment to stay warm. If you are bringing children, it’s nice to have hot beverages like hot cocoa or even hot soup available to help them stay warm. It’s also recommended to bring hand warmers that you can put in your gloves or boots. Ice fishing bibs are another great way to bundle up and stay warm, and they also use material that keeps the angler afloat in case they fall through the ice.
To avoid falling through the ice, a general safety recommendation is to not step on the ice unless it is at least 4 inches thick. Keep in mind, though, that ice thickness can vary across a lake. If you see the ice is 4 inches thick in one spot, don't assume it’s 4 inches thick across the entire lake. Be sure to drill test holes into the ice as you venture onto it or take a spud bar (ice chisel) if it is really early in the season, so you can test the ice regularly as you walk out. You should also avoid putting large groups of people and equipment in a small area — spread the weight out.
As far as taking vehicles out on the ice I'd hate to see your new 4x4 truck at the bottom of the lake. For the heaviest vehicles DWR suggests that the ice needs to be at least a foot thick. Even then, I would still be hesitant. And, again, spread the weight out as much as you can.
More safety tips can be found at the Utah State Parks website.
Also keep in mind that even though the conditions can be freezing and that it is in the dead of winter, fishing regulations are still in effect.
Two of the most common mistakes that conservation officers report is taking too many fish over the legal limit and either not having a fishing license, or a license that has expired.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you catch and release is that fish get stressed by freezing temperatures as easily as when conditions are extremely hot. The fish are swimming in water that is likely warmer than the temperatures to which they are being exposed when being caught. Water that remains on sensitive spots, like the gills or eyes, can begin to freeze very rapidly, and cause damage to the fish.
If you catch and release, make sure to keep quick access to any tools you may need to release the fish quickly.
Find more information about where to go ice fishing in Utah on the DWR Fish Utah Map.
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Gallery Credit: Jolana Miller