Scott Goldie, an ice fisher by hobby, waits until January to put his ice shack out.
“I want there to be over a foot of ice before I go out with a shack,” Goldie said. “[By January] in my mind, it’s safe and I generally put it in the same places every year. They’re places that I am familiar with.”
The Saskatchewan Government is reminding people that just because it’s cold doesn’t mean it is safe to participate fully in on-ice activities, including ice fishing.
The Ministry of Environment said the variability in temperatures over the last few weeks and the snow cover can make the ice thickness unpredictable.
“Ice thickness depends on the water body and the surrounding conditions,” said the ministry in an email. “Ice does not freeze at a uniform thickness and ice strength can vary considerably from one area to another.”
Goldie is cautious when he sets foot on the ice, regardless of his familiarity with the spot.
“[I’ll] carefully go out, sounding the ice with a prybar, and drilling holes as I go so I know if the thickness is uniform,” said Goldie, relaying the method he used at his spot on Last Mountain Lake a few days ago.
The minimum thickness for one person to walk on the ice is 10 centimetres, driving an ATV is 20 cm and any vehicle activity on ice requires at least 30 cm — more if it is a heavy truck.
“Experienced, amateur or casual outdoors people should use common sense when they are on frozen water.” Cpl. Conrad Logan, NCO in charge of operations for the RCMP detachments covering the Southey and Strasbourg areas, said in a Regina Leader-Post article.
A few years ago, Goldie was driving in deep snow when the front of his truck went through a soft spot on the lake.
“I honestly don’t know if I went through the ice,” Goldie said. “I think there was just a ton of snow, and water coming up through a heave and created a lot of slush and my front end just disappeared into a bunch of slush because it didn’t take much to get out and there wasn’t any damage.
“But it was a little bit concerning that’s for sure.”
It is for this very reason it’s recommended to avoid ice that looks slushy. Clear, hard ice is the only ice recommended for travel. Goldie said he also drives with his windows down and doors unlocked on the ice in case he does go through and needs to escape his vehicle.
Goldie has been ice fishing once since the season opened and is looking forward to the rest of the winter, shack or no shack.
“I’m not in a rush; it’s nice enough,” Goldie said. “I don’t need to be sitting in a shack right now, not until the dead of winter sets in.
“I just love being outside. Once shack season hits I don’t even care if I catch a fish I just love firing up the wood stove and sitting in the shack and not hearing a sound.”