SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — How does an angler know if the ice is safe enough for a person, all-terrain-vehicle or a truck?
There’s no reliable statewide daily chart that is updated during the ice fishing season, say a state official, a county official and two people who work with anglers year-round.
“We don’t post ice (thickness updates) because it varies so much,” Jeremy Roe of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks office in Sioux Falls said.
“If you put out the ice is 10 inches thick, it could be five inches thick at another lake,” Roe said.
Josh Heitkamp, the manager of Dakota Angler in Sioux Falls, said, current ice conditions will vary depending on temperature, location and snowfall.
“We don’t like to give out too many ice reports,” Heitkamp said.
Recent snow has created interesting ice conditions on lakes in the region, Heitkamp said.
Snow can trap warmth and the ice under it can be thinner than the ice with less snow, he said.
There is also snow on the lakes in the Watertown area.
“We’ve been telling fishermen we’ve had a lot of snow but we’ve had good ice…,” Gene Soupir, the manager of Proud Angler Bait and Tackle in Watertown, said.
Anglers may need to “shovel away the snow,” so they can drill into the ice to check the depth, Soupir said.
An uneven ice year is how Day County Sheriff Ryan Rucktaeschel describes ice conditions.
“Today, we maintain ice. We won’t gain ice until we have those 0-degree nights,” Rucktaeschel said.
Rucktaeschel said ice could be 12 to 14 inches deep in one part of the lake but “five feet away it could be six inches.”
Rucktaeschel said he spent about 70 hours ice fishing over the weekend. When he placed his ice fishing house on the lake, “I drilled 100 holes. I drilled holes every two feet to make sure it was safe,” Rucktaeschel said.
Conditions on lakes also include ice heaves, Heitkamp said.
When the ice heaves, one side heaves up over the other so that one side gets thinner or softer than the other.
“People can cross heaves and hit thinner ice,” Heitkamp said.
Heitkamp said anglers need to watch for heaves in the ice and stay away.
Spring-fed lakes also take longer to freeze so the ice around those spring areas will be thinner, Heitkamp said.
Anglers can use a spud bar, which is a long, metal bar used to poke into the ice to check the depth. Drilling into the ice is another way to check the depth.
Soupir said anglers should also talk to other anglers.
“Watch out for the guys already fishing,” Soupir said. “Go see where others are fishing and (talk to) those guys.”
But anglers shouldn’t just choose one way to make sure the ice is safe. They should be checking the ice consistently by using a spud bar, drilling and looking and talking with other anglers.
“Absolutely, check. You are walking on ice,” Heitkamp said.
“Always keep checking the ice,” Roe said.