Ice anglers should expect a good fishing season on Wyoming lakes and reservoirs this winter. But, along with the good fishing, anglers are advised to use caution while on the ice.
The cold snap of early December has iced over the lakes in much of the state and good catches have already been reported on a number of waters.
Ice conditions often fluctuate throughout the winter months as water levels in lakes and reservoirs change, and freezing and thawing weather patterns come and go and can contribute to unstable ice conditions.
The Game and Fish advises anglers to check the thickness of any ice before venturing onto it, and continue checking it every 100 to 150 feet. Four inches of clear ice is usually safe for fishing. Clear ice is stronger than cloudy or white ice, which has frozen, thawed and refrozen and is not always stable. White ice can also be from air bubbles or frozen snow and is much weaker than clear ice. For white ice, double the recommended thickness.
While the ice on rivers may appear safe, the Game and Fish Department warns to steer clear of it. The Game and Fish recommends to stay off rivers altogether as water flowing under the ice can and often does cause unsafe ice conditions. In addition, wind can also play a huge factor and can determine how solidly the ice freezes and how long it stays frozen. Conditions can change rapidly. Ice that may be safe one day may be in poor shape the next after an afternoon of warm Chinook winds.
The Game and Fish also recommends that ice anglers not go out on the ice alone. Practicing the buddy system can make a life or death difference by having someone to provide assistance in the event of an accident.
Other safety precautions include wearing a life jacket and carrying a flotation device on a rope that can easily be thrown, as well as some sort of ice pick. This can be as simple as a lanyard with some spikes attached that will allow you to grab the ice if you fall in.
Low water temperatures can be life threatening this time of year and hypothermia is a serious risk for anyone who does fall through the ice. Ice anglers should learn to recognize and to treat hypothermia and should always have dry clothing and hot liquids close at hand.
The Game and Fish also recommends against driving vehicles or ATVs onto the ice. Every year there are instances of vehicles going through the ice and the Game and Fish advises ice anglers to not take the chance.