I got a good lesson in ice safety on Friday from Sean Cluff, who will host a youth ice fishing day at Horsethief Reservoir on Saturday, Jan. 10.
He was testing ice at several locations around Cascade, and despite the temperature dipping to minus 14 last week and daily highs staying below freezing, there was a lot of variability in ice thickness and some potentially scary situations.
Ice levels on Friday varied from safe for walking (at least 4 inches of clear ice) to a less than 3 inches.
Cluff was meticulous in measuring the ice. He used a tape measure, and stuck his arm into the ice hole to anchor the bottom of the measure tape beneath the ice to ensure he got an accurate reading.
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Other people were less cautious. Two ice anglers said they were on 5 inches of ice, but when Cluff measured, it was three inches of ice and 2 inches of slush. Considering the cut off for "safe" ice is about 4 inches of clear ice, that inch could mean the difference between safe and unsafe.
There's a thick layer of snow on much of Horsethief that is insulating the ice and slowing the growing ice is layer. There's also a layer of slush between the snow and ice in many places.
There were numerous snowmobilers on Lake Cascade, despite the fact that ice depths in several places was barely enough for walkers. Hopefully, nobody broke through, but I could see the potential.
There were plenty of anglers on Horsethief, Lake Cascade, and Magic Reservoir is now frozen and people are fishing there as well.
But be cautious, and drill test holes yourself. Don't assume it's safe because other people are on the ice, or use tracks, previously holes, or anything else to gauge whether it's safe. Use good judgment, and make sure it's thick enough for four-wheelers and snowmobiles before heading out on them. You can get in a lot of trouble in a hurry on a heavy machine far from shoreline and away from others who may be able to help.
If you've still read this far, trout fishing was good at Horsethief. Perch fishing was slow at Cascade, at least on the north end of the reservoir where we were fishing. Ice at the popular Sugarloaf area wasn't thick enough for fishing on Friday.
Read more about ice fishing in Thursday's Idaho Outdoors.