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#1 Ice Fishing Safety tip: No Ice is Safe Ice
By Jack Spaulding
So far, ice fishing this season in the Midwest has been a bust. Continued warming trends have kept all but some very extreme northern locations free of ice suitable for fishing. The Arctic blast at Christmas got ice fishermen excited, but to no avail. But, keep your long johns handy as surely colder days are ahead and will bring ice suitable for safe fishing. 
When it does freeze, Indiana Conservation Officers are advising to be mindful of the potential hazards of frozen lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. It’s also important to keep a watchful eye on neighborhood retention ponds, lakes and other waterways for others who may venture out and find themselves in trouble.
Put safety first. The best rule of thumb when thinking about getting on the ice is; believe it is thin ice unless proven otherwise.
Here are a few tips to remember when considering standing on or walking on a frozen lake or pond: 
1. No ice is safe ice.
2. Test the thickness of the ice with an ice auger. At least 4 inches of ice is recommended for ice fishing; 5 inches is recommended for snowmobiling.
3. If you don’t know the thickness of the ice, don‘t go on it.
4. Wear life jackets or flotation coats.
5. Carry ice hooks and rope gear.
6. Before going on the ice, leave a note of your whereabouts with a friend or family member.
7. Don’t test the thickness of the ice while alone.
Wearing a life jacket is especially important when on the ice. If you fall through, a life jacket will keep your head above the water until help arrives.
The coating of snow Indiana receives can make for treacherous ice conditions. The snow can insulate the ice, causing it to freeze at a slower rate. When snow and rain freeze into ice, it is never as strong as solid, clear ice.
If you see a pet or other animal in distress on the ice, do not go after it. Instead, contact your local emergency response personnel, who are equipped to make a rescue.
Some bodies of water will appear to be frozen solid but actually can have thin ice in several potentially unexpected areas. Flowing water, such as rivers and streams, should be avoided when covered by a layer of ice. Water surrounded by sand may freeze with inconsistencies in the thickness of the ice. Underground springs, wind, waterfowl and other animals such as beavers can also keep areas of ice thin.
The New Year will bring coyote sightings around Indiana. Seeing coyotes, especially during winter, is normal and should not cause alarm.
However, those who own small pets should take measures to keep them inside or safe from coyote predation.
Coyotes become more active during winter. Young coyotes are leaving their parents to find a new home, making them more visible. In January, coyotes will also be looking to breed, making them even more active. Bare vegetation also increases people’s chances of catching a glimpse.
Where people are, coyotes follow. Coyotes like to eat animals and plants thriving around yards and homes. Their diet includes rabbits, mice, fruit, squirrels and small pets. They thrive around people because of the abundant food coming with human development.
Coyotes are an important part of Indiana’s wildlife community and provide benefits by helping control rodent populations and cleaning up carrion.
To prevent encounters, be proactive by removing food and water sources, keeping pets leashed or contained, and trying to scare a coyote when you see it. Follow these quick tips for making your yard less attractive to coyotes:
Clean up fallen fruit from trees or gardens. Keep garbage secure. Make sure pet food and treats are not left outside.
Take down bird feeders if you see a coyote around your yard; they could be attracted to the rodents eating the seeds.
Never intentionally feed a coyote; it could lose its fear of people. If you see a coyote, try to make it uncomfortable: yell! Wave your arms. Spray it with a hose.
Throw tennis balls or small stones, but don’t throw anything like apples which is food.
Carry a jar of coins or a small air horn to use to make noise.
Making a coyote feel unwelcome around people can help it maintain its natural fear of humans. Never corner or chase a coyote — they should always have a clear escape path to get away from you. Keep pets leashed, in a kennel with a secure top, or indoors to reduce the possibility of a negative interaction with any wildlife, including coyotes.
The Indiana DNR recently received 168,000 Chinook salmon eggs for their hatching program thanks to a partnership with the Wisconsin DNR.
Chinook salmon are highly prized by anglers, and the species makes up a significant portion of the fish stocked into Indiana’s Lake Michigan waters. Indiana does not have the infrastructure to spawn Chinook salmon, so the DNR relies on partners in other states for eggs.
Kept at Mixsawbah State Fish Hatchery, the Chinook eggs will be hatched and raised until spring 2021, when the salmon fingerlings will be stocked.
“Partnerships are crucial for our Lake Michigan program, and we’re very grateful to Wisconsin DNR for going above and beyond to get these eyed eggs,” said Rob Ackerson, hatchery manager at Mixsawbah State Fish Hatchery.
Hatchery managers refer to newly fertilized eggs as green eggs. Several weeks after fertilization, the eyes of the salmon embryo become visible, signaling the egg is viable. Then, the eggs are referred to as eyed eggs.
Although Wisconsin harvested enough green eggs to meet Indiana’s egg request, an unusually low number of viable eggs has resulted in shortages. Wisconsin was only able to provide Indiana with enough eyed eggs to meet just over half of Indiana’s production goal of 225,000 Chinook salmon. By the time the poor eye-up was determined, it was too late to obtain more eggs from any source, because the Chinook spawning run had ended.
“While we’re disappointed to not have our full complement of Chinooks for the 2021 stocking year, we’ll continue to roll with the punches this unpredictable year has delivered,” said Ben Dickinson, Lake Michigan biologist for Indiana DNR. “We will make Indiana’s Lake Michigan fishery the best we can with the cards we’re dealt.”
Readers can contact the author by writing to this publication, or e-mail to
Spaulding’s books, “The Best of Spaulding Outdoors,” and his latest, “The Coon Hunter And The Kid” are now available from