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PIERRE, S.D. – The calendar may say we are close to winter, but mild temperatures and snow cover have made for “unwinter-like” conditions on most of South Dakota’s lakes, rivers and streams. Due to the mild beginning to the ice fishing season, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) officials are urging anglers, snowmobilers and recreationists to take extreme caution when venturing out.
“Ice conditions across the state are not very good right now,” said John Lott,GFP fisheries administrator. “Repeated freezing and thawing have made for poor ice and open areas on many of our lakes.“
The rule of thumb is that it takes at least two inches of ice to support an angler, at least six inches to support an ice shack and over a foot for a vehicle, but that applies to strong, clear ice. Many area lakes have produced “cloudy” or “dark” ice due to the warm conditions. Dark or cloudy ice is not as strong as clear ice.
If a person is going to venture out, they should also test ice conditions as they proceed. “Just because an angler sees six inches near the shore, doesn’t mean it will be six inches across the lake. Springs, current, wind or ice heaves all effect the formation of ice and can make ice very dangerous,” concluded Lott.
Anglers are reminded to drill test holes to measure the thickness of the ice they are traveling on, have flotation devices available and tell someone where they are going to be.