Ice thickness below normal in North Dakota – Forum

Ice thickness below normal in North Dakota – Forum

JAMESTOWN — Ice thickness on large bodies of water is below normal across the state and there is no reasonable expectation of adding a significant amount of ice in the future, according to Allen Schlag, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck.

“This year the ice has become more volatile,” Schlag said. “Overall, it’s thinner and some of the safety factor that people are accustomed to in late January and February has been removed. The ice, simply put, is not there.”

This time of year is when the ice is usually thickest, he said. Larger bodies of water like Jamestown Reservoir, where water depths range from 20 to 40 feet, have a harder time creating an inch of ice because they have more stored thermal energy, he said.

Due to thin ice, the Jamestown Rural Fire Department’s 16th Annual Ice Fishing Tournament scheduled for Saturday, February 17 at Pelican Point has been canceled. Other festivities, including the main draw, will continue as scheduled on Friday and Saturday, February 16-17, at The Club 1883 in Jamestown.

“We always have good support every year at the tournament and it has grown. It’s a fun event in the late winter,” Jamestown Rural Fire Chief Brian Paulson said. “Unfortunately, we can’t get out on the ice this year. “We have always appreciated the support we get from the community.”

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While most of the big fish houses are parked on the beach, some enthusiasts are still driving their vehicles on the ice as seen Wednesday, February 14, at Jamestown Reservoir.

John M. Steiner/Jamestown Sun

Open water with geese can be seen south of the island at Jamestown Reservoir, Paulson said. He said anglers and others recommended not holding the ice fishing tournament.

“People were fishing at Pelican Point, but the ice kept getting thinner and thinner,” Paulson said. “Talking to some very hardcore anglers, they told us the ice has gotten very thin in some spots, and what used to be 18 or 20 inches thick is now 6 (inch thick).”

Schlag said there are a lot of variables that go into getting thicker ice on large bodies of water like Jamestown Reservoir, the first of which is lower temperatures.

“We’re kind of stuck in that middle ground right now where our daytime highs are in the low 30s and our overnight lows are in the 20s,” he said.

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The pool of open water at Jamestown Reservoir has grown in recent weeks as rising temperatures have caused more ice to melt.

John M. Steiner/Jamestown Sun

Not having any snow on the ground is also another factor for getting thicker ice.

“Snow is a great insulator. It insulates everything really well from cold air temperatures or conversely from warm air temperatures,” Schlag said. “So ice is more reactive this year to temperature fluctuations than most years because we don’t have that Snow cover.”

High temperatures earlier this week in Jamestown were in the mid to upper 30s with lows in the range of 15 to 21 degrees. Schlag said he doesn’t expect to produce much ice this week due to the high temperatures.

“I think by Sunday, Monday, we will have the same ice and it will be in roughly the same condition as it is today (Wednesday, February 14),” he said.

It’s common for Devils Lake to get about 36 inches of ice in January and February, Schlag said.

“No one has 36 inches of ice this year that I know of,” he said. “Instead, there were a lot of reports of very thin ice.”

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Ice on the shoreline has risen above the ice sheet on the lake as seen near Pelican Point Landing Campground at the north end of Jamestown Reservoir.

John M. Steiner/Jamestown Sun

He said that convection currents originate in uneven areas under water.

“When the water wants to move due to convection, it causes a current in those confined areas and burns through the ice sheet very quickly, so the ice is not uniformly thick across any body of water,” Schlag said. “A lot of ice fishermen, you always hear them talk about there being springs there, and the real springs are in North Dakota, but the vast majority of what people talk about are actually locations in the lake and they happen every year in the same place where there are convection currents that bring in more water.” A little warm and touching the bottom of the ice which makes it dangerous.

March 15 is the deadline for anglers to remove unoccupied fish houses from North Dakota waters, according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website.

Schlag recommended taking the fish houses out of the water well before March 15.

Masaki Ova

Masaaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, ND and majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, ND

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