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Be aware of many factors affecting depth of lake ice
With the shift in weather patterns, central Indiana is seeing ice form on lakes and ponds. The on-again, off-again variance in freezing temperatures is making safe ice slow to form. Many ice fishermen are “chomping the bit” to get out and start drilling holes, but patience needs to be practiced.

Years ago, I was fishing a small pond with some of my ice fishing buddies. Some holes were producing fish, and others weren’t. There was a skiff of snow covering at least eight inches or more of good, solid ice. There was no worry about the ability of the ice to support the weight of several anglers.

Since I found myself over a “fishless” hole, I decided to do a little exploring and chisel some exploratory holes. As I walked across the ice, I swung the spud bar in front of me like an overly heavy walking stick. The tip of the heavy spud bar would strike the ice about 30 inches in front of me and make a very resounding “clink.”
Approaching one of the deepest parts of the pond, I noticed a slight difference in the coloration of the ice under the snow.
Swinging the bar forward, I almost lost my grip on it as it suddenly broke through only an inch of ice.

I immediately lay down on the ice to disperse my weight and started crawling back to the safety of thicker ice. The area of thin, “black ice” was caused by an upwelling spring.

Springs are just one of the conditions affecting ice thickness. Indiana’s conservation officers have some recommendations to remind Hoosiers to take extra precautions when it comes to outdoor activities on the ice.

•A good rule of thumb is: If you don’t know, don’t go. Don’t go onto ice until you make sure it is thick enough to sustain your activity. Conservation officers recommend four inches of ice when fishing and five inches when operating an ATV.

•Lakes, ponds, rivers and streams don’t freeze at the same rate, even on the same body of water. Some things contributing to thinner ice areas are: flowing or aerated water; sandy or vegetated areas; wind; and wildlife activity by beaver or waterfowl.

•Whether you are fishing, hiking, skating, operating an ATV or just sliding around on the ice, a lifejacket can save your life. Every year people drown from falling through thin ice. Carrying ice hooks, rope gear and even a whistle may increase your chances of escaping from the water.

•It is always a good idea to use the buddy system and never go out alone.

Christmas tree fish habitat, or trash?

There are many ways to recycle Christmas trees, but tossing them on a frozen lake to create fish habitat may not be the best idea … and may require a permit from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Fish attractors tend to bring fish and fishermen together,” said Bill James, chief fisheries biologist for the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife. “They provide cover, but don’t necessarily grow more fish.”
Better options include taking the tree to a designated Christmas tree recycling site in your community, tossing it in the backyard to provide shelter for wintering birds, running it through a wood chipper to create your own mulch or chopping it up for firewood.

Discarding a Christmas tree on a private pond is at the owner’s discretion, but doing so on public freshwater lakes is governed by the Lake Preservation Act (Indiana Code 14-26-2) and Indiana Administrative Code 312 IAC 11-4-7. The two laws require a license from the DNR to construct or place a fish attractor in a public freshwater lake.

To qualify, the fish attractor must be anchored to ensure proper setting and must not be placed in a channel, a beach area, near the lake surface or in an area adversely affecting public safety and navigation or adversely affect the natural resources or natural scenic beauty.

Three DNR divisions – Fish & Wildlife, Law Enforcement and Water – have a role in reviewing and approving a permit request for placement of a fish attractor. If approved, the permit carries a $100 fee and requires the permit holder to remove any portion or portions of the fish attractor becoming unattached.

Sunrise eagle watch at Mississinewa

Grab your binoculars and spotting scopes and join us for the annual Sunrise Eagle Watch, Jan. 12 from 6:30-9:30 a.m. Participants will meet at Mississinewa Miami State Recreation Area Boat Launch at 6:30 a.m. and caravan to the largest documented eagle roost in Indiana to watch the eagles rise to a new day.

Individuals will need to dress for the cold weather and bring any personal drinks or snacks, binoculars, cameras and spotting scopes. For the safety of the Eagle Watch participants, the section of Frances Slocum Road south of State Road 124 and S. 550 E. will be closed for the event.

Registration is required, and individuals interested in participating should call 260-468-2127. For more information on other Upper Wabash programs, check or

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments for Jack Spaulding may contact him by email at or by writing to him in care of this publication.