January's Outdoor Column

JANUARY’S OUTDOOR COLUMN

January, the coldest, longest month of the year as far as I’m concerned, and it doesn’t appear it will get much better.

The arctic blasts through the Midwest have been extremely bitter this time of the year and the damage to wildlife I’m sure will be apparent as time goes on. The one good thing these frigid temperatures have given us is ice. Ice that we can use to fish on and your local Big R Stores have everything you need to have a great day ice fishing.

I’ve ice fished most all my life and there are some things a novice or even a veteran should know before venturing out on the ice. Never put your life at risk because you don’t know the ice. The difference between good ice and bad ice is generally easy to tell if you scrape the snow off the top and drill a hole.

Good ice is clear and hard like a block of ice we used to get from an ice dealer to put in one of the old refrigerators called an ice box. Bad ice is much more like a snow cone; full of pores (tiny holes) and not tightly compacted together. You can’t get a good look at the ice from above; a snow may have fallen on the ice and then melted turning the top layer into a cloudy, milky looking layer. Once you drill through this top layer you will find some good solid ice particularly now.

Milky rotten ice occurs when the temperatures warm and slush develops on top and refreezes at night. When water comes through your ice hole; when the ice is milky and porous, it’s time to stay off. During a cold winter this usually occurs in mid to late February. During a warm winter it can happen anytime, especially if temperatures reach into the forty’s or fifty’s.
Fish light line tests such as 2, 4, and 6-pound tests if you are after bluegill or crappie; higher if you are after game fish. Use small bobber’s as well!

It is safe for one person to fish on 4 inches of ice, more if the ice is clear and hard. Four inches is iffy if the ice is rotten. Never risk your life for a fish! We hear this all the time yet, inevitably someone drowns every year and we must wonder why? It is simple, they chose to challenge nature and they lost.
Don’t be a statistic this ice fishing season. Learn to read the ice and use good common sense and live to enjoy ice fishing next season. I hope to see you on the ice!

About Sam Van Camp

Born: Danville, Illinois | Married: Pam Van | Lives: Georgetown, Illinois | High School: Danville High School | College: Danville Area Community College, Eastern Illinois University | Degree: Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology with Minor in Botany | Specialties Areas: Master’s Degree – Fisheries Biology, Mammalogy, Herpetology | Previous Jobs: School Teacher – Basic Biology 36 years Outdoor Writer – 38 years (1 Book Published “Jitterbug Collector’s Guide State and Federally Licensed Taxidermist – 35 yearsWood Carver specializing in song birds, birds of prey and waterfowl 46 years | Hobbies: Bass Fishing, Hunting, Collecting Fishing Lures