Ice conditions across Vermont are inconsistent due to warm and variable weather, and the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife urges anglers to put safety first if they venture out ice fishing.
“Check the ice during your trip, avoid areas where currents can create weaker ice, and if you’re not sure the ice is safe, find a different body of water,” fisheries biologist Sean Goode warns. “With good judgment, ice fishing is a safe and fun way to get out in the winter. But it means making careful, smart decisions and changing plans if conditions aren’t what you had hoped.”
Ice conditions are currently variable across Vermont. At higher altitudes and in the northeast of the kingdom, many lakes and ponds have completely frozen over and have fishable ice. But in southern Vermont and the Champlain Valley, many lakes and ponds are not yet safe for ice fishing.
“Three to four inches of clear black ice is the minimum for safe ice fishing,” Judd said. “For the type of gray or opaque ice we get after repeated freezing, thawing and refreezing, we recommend anglers look for at least six inches of ice where they plan to fish.”
Even on a single body of water, it is important to know that the thickness of the ice is not always uniform. Areas around pressure cracks or near the entrances to streams or rivers can be thinner and weaker than the surrounding ice.
The department says anglers should always carry a potato strip to test the ice as they go and should have a personal ice pack to bail themselves out. Hunters should avoid hunting alone and should let someone know where they will be hunting and when they plan to return home.
But despite poor or nonexistent early-season ice conditions in some areas of Vermont, avid anglers can still find safe ice fishing opportunities this month.
“While we wait for the cold weather to freeze bodies of water statewide, I recommend anglers focus on planning and putting their gear in tip-top shape — or hit the road and explore high water or northern waters where there is already good ice,” Good said. “Fishing somewhere other than your home waters can be part of the adventure and allure of ice fishing, and it’s a great way to explore Vermont.
To learn more about ice fishing safety, tips for beginners, and where to fish, visit Vermont and Wildlife’s “Ice Fishing Basics” and “Ice Fishing Opportunities” web pages.