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Ice Fishing - Ice Conditions

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Nebraska ICE UP Map

This map represents reports of ice conditions across the state as an open collaboration of contributors from all areas. As the site indicates the "reports are not verified. Please use this information AT YOUR OWN RISK."

Keep in mind that ice conditions can widely vary across any body of water. You MUST use caution while traveling across frozen bodies of water.

Consider wearing a life jacket or float coat when venturing onto thin ice!

With those considerations in mind visit the site by clicking on the thumbnail of the map below to go to the map.

Ice Safety with Daryl Bauer

Every year, those new to the ice-fishing game are haunted by the same question -- how much and what kind of ice will safely support anglers and their equipment. The safe load ice will bear is not dependent entirely on its thickness, but there are some reliable rules of thumb. A minimum of three inches of clear, blue lake ice, and preferably four inches, will support a single angler, and five inches will hold several anglers in single file.

Eight inches is needed for safe operation of a snowmobile. Slush ice is only about half as strong as clear lake ice, so anglers should double the minimum thickness figures when encountering such conditions. They should also bear in mind that ice weakens with age, and late in the season, when it turns dark and gets "honeycombed," it's time to quit for the season. A cold snap sometimes halts the deterioration, but honeycombed ice will never refreeze to its original strength.

Any lake with moving water in it, whether from an inlet canal, springs, groundwater seepages or an outlet, should be regarded with skepticism. Water movement, no matter how slight, retards freezing, often leaving hard-to-detect thin spots. Some lakes in Nebraska merit special mention in this regard, although with extra vigilance they are fishable. Lakes along the canal systems in the Platte Valley between Sutherland and Johnson Lake have inlet canals and out-lets that move water all winter, so ice is suspect in some parts of these lakes. In addition to these areas, Sutherland Reservoir has another potential hazard: warm-water discharges from a powerplant.

The cooling pond and its outlet are in the southeastern corner of the lake, while the inlet is at the southwest, both well away from the good perch-fishing areas located at the north and northwest portions. At Lake Ogallala, water flows along the outlet of Lake McConaughy's Kingsley Dam to the North Platte River. Moving water is always a cause for concern in that area. In addition, a hydroelectric facility at Kingsley Dam operates to meet peak power demands, creating daily fluctuations in the level of Lake Ogallala.

How great these fluctuations are and whether they affect the ice varies with conditions. Lake McConaughy sometimes causes weak spots in the ice along the north and west shores of Lake Ogallala. Sandpit lakes have similar problems with seepage from groundwater or immediately adjacent rivers.

Groundwater usually flows in the same direction as the nearby river but at a much slower rate. Seepage and the resulting weak ice generally occur at the upstream end of the pit. On pits that form the Interstate 80 Chain of Lakes, for example, the seepage areas and resulting weak ice are usually along the west shorelines. In addition, pits often contain springs, which cause weakening. In general, be suspicious of any discolored ice. Imbedded materials, such as weeds or logs, also weaken ice, and large objects in or on the ice, such as abandoned duck blinds or ice shanties, can absorb the sun's heat and weaken ice. Ice near shore may also be weakened by heat from the ground.

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