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Hard Water Fishing By gary Howey

Entered by Gary Howey

Former tournament angler, hunting and fishing guide. Inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing "Hall of Fame" in 2017. Active member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW), Past Executive Director (AGLOW). Howey has been an outdoor communicator since 1980 with his award winning syndicated "Of the Outdoors" columns appearing in magazine, newspapers, and tabloids throughout he upper Midwest and nationally.

December 16, 2023

This year’s ice fishing is off to a slow start, because of the warm weather. A few years back Team Outdoorsmen Productions team member Cory Ewing, Waubay Guide Service with several of the nice perch taken from the Glacial Lakes of South Dakota.

   Those of us who enjoy ice fishing, have had a tough time getting on the ice, warm temperatures, with some of the ice detreating.

  Of course, depending on where you live and the body of water you are looking to fish makes a difference.

  Hard water fisherman who are looking at hitting the ice in northern South Dakota and Nebraska could be okay, as the lower temperatures in these locations, has helped to firm up the ice.

The warm weather and sun, with its warmer temperature we’ve had in the last couple of weeks had created some melting, reducing the ice thickness.

  The warm weather in the upper Midwest, hasn’t helped to build ice the weather in the next two week is not looking good, as temperatures will be too warm to build to build ice.

  In Nebraska, very few, if any of the lakes have built enough good ice for Ice fishing and about the only way to get on the ice, would be to walk, checking the ice thickness as you go.

   Some of the excellent ice fishing lake sin Nebraska once things freeze  up include;  Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, with the only lakes that are fishable are Clear, Dewey and Rice as well as Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area, south east of Valentine, Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Ellsworth,  Oxbow Trail, Recreation Area, Ulysses, Willow Creek State Recreation Area, Pierce, Box Butte Reservoir State Recreation Area, Marshland and Cottonwood Lake State Recreation Area, Merriman.

  All of these lakes may not have good ice, it’s a good ides to check with them before planning a trip into these areas

   The ice thickness South Dakota, because of the colder temperatures may have reduced the ice thickness.

 If you choose to go on the ice, make sure to check ice the thickness throughout the day.

  The bodies of water in the Northeastern part of the state, the Glacial Lakes region has numerous lakes with excellence ice fishing including Waubay, Bitter, Big Stone, Poinsett, Horseshoe, Lynn, Dry Lake # 1, 2, & 3, Indian Springs, all are mostly ice covered.

  Once again, before planning on a trip, check with the closest bait and tackle shops as they’ll have up to date ice reports.

  If you plan on doing some ice fishing, you’ll want to check with the local tackle shops to see if They have a current report on ice thickness.

 Those lakes in the northern part of the state, may have better ice than the rest of the lakes.

 A couple of things you should carry with you when going onto the ice is a throwable cushion, which works well for kneeling on the ice and can be thrown to someone whose fell through the ice, ice picks in case you fall through the ice, that weighted rope that could be used to rescue someone whose fell through the ice.


Don’t assume that the ice is thick enough to support whatever you plan on carrying with you.


In both of the states, we talked about on this show, because of the warm weather, the ice hasn’t frozen uniformly, so test the ice when you go on it, a spud bar works well for this.


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