Caution when ice fishing

By Al Smith - Guest Columnist

The recent polar vortex gave us some solid ice for the first time in a couple of years. If you could stand the elements with the aid of a good shanty and heater, you might have been able to entice some nice panfish.

But up and down weather can be a bane to those who fish in the winter, too. The quick warmup in midweek left us with a lot of melting snow, which yields plenty of standing water, an aspect my ice fishing buddies and I abhor. We hate standing in cold water. Along with a slushy mix, the combo prove to make for some miserable conditions to fish.

The latest predicted snow along with frigid temperatures can lead to standing on a thinner layer of ice, which breaks and leaves you standing in cold water again. Water on top of ice can make conditions quite unsafe and drastically weaken ice. Years ago, a buddy and I went out again after a period of melting snow. We gingerly and cautiously checked the ice, which was at least 9 inches thick. We augered a hold while standing on shore. The ice appeared safe. I took one step onto the ice and my foot went through. I was there with one leg in the water and the other one shore. Needless to say we didn’t do any ice fishing that day. Always carry a long rope with you and a pair of hand ice grippers. They come in handy should you go through the ice. And don’t fish alone.

A hot bit locally had been reported on Ferguson Reservoir where yellow perch about 9-12 inches were being caught under 7-8 inches of ice and 22-25 feet of water. Use ice jigs tipped with waxworms or just a minnow.

There had been hordes of ice anglers on Lake Erie. And there have been reports of walleye and yellow perch being caught through the ice 1 to 3 miles west and northwest of Catawba Island State Park. There also have been reports of panfish being caught in the harbors. Recent strong winds and warmer weather have affected ice conditions so use extreme caution when ice fishing on Lake Erie or any other area bodies of water covered with ice until it definitely firms up again.

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Some rugged weather during the annual muzzleloader season brought harvest numbers down this year compared to last year statewide, but Limaland hunters almost equaled the number of deer they harvested during the early January season.

Statewide, hunters checked 13,268 white-tailed deer during the Jan. 6-9 muzzleloader season compared to 15,843 deer that were checked in 2017, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Locally, five counties were down in harvest numbers while four increased in harvested numbers. A total of 530 deer were checked in the 9 Limaland counties this year compared to 536 checked a year ago. Area counties with the number of deer checked and number from a year ago in parenthesis were: Allen 57 (50), Auglaize 57 (48), Hancock 59 (51), Hardin 101 (111), Logan 127 (136), Mercer 28 (29), Putnam 21 (20), Shelby 60 (67) and Van Wert 20 (24).

Hunters still have opportunities to pursue deer this winter as archery season remains open through Sunday, Feb. 4.

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A couple of free workshops sponsored by the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) will be held the next few weeks.

The first offers free venison preparation and canning and will be on Jan. 23 from from 6-9 p.m. at the Coon Creek Hunt Club, located at 1589 Ohio 510. Preregistration is required by Jan. 19. Space is limited. Interested individuals can register by calling Andrea Altman at 419-429-8321 or emailing

Trained professionals from the DOW will cover topics including how to pressure can venison, a great way to save freezer space and preserve meat, and how to make venison snack sticks, which is a delicious way to use leftover meat from a previous season.

For more information on venison meal preparation and other wild game recipes, visit the Wild Ohio Cookbook at

The other workshop will be held in Xenia on Feb. 3 and covers the basics of coyote hunting/trapping.

The DOW, Ohio State Trappers Association (OSTA) and Pitch Black Precision will cover basic topics such as life history, calling techniques (call types and setups), appropriate firearms and ammunition, field sets, and scouting.

The workshop will be held from 4-8 p.m. at the Wildlife District Five Headquarters, 1076 Old Springfield Pike, Xenia. Pre-registration is required. Seating is limited. To register call Brittany at 937-372-9261.

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Notable changes among the among small game and migratory bird 2018-19 hunting seasons proposals to the Ohio Wildlife Council include requiring an annual or daily range permit on all ODNR Division of Wildlife firearm target ranges (class A, B and C); modifying waterfowl bag limits by increasing the hen mallard, black duck and pintail daily bag limit from one to two; requiring tree stands on all DOW properties to meet certain criteria; establishing a controlled hunting permit for quail at Crown City Wildlife Area; adding Erie, Hancock and Sandusky counties to the 2018 fall turkey season; and modifying hunting hours for the 2019 spring turkey season.

Open houses to receive public comments about hunting, trapping, and fishing regulations and other wildlife issues will be held on Saturday, March 3, from noon-3 p.m. Open houses will be held at the Wildlife District One, District Two, District Three and District Four offices, as well as the Greene County Fish and Game Association clubhouse in Xenia.

Open houses give the public an opportunity to view and discuss proposed fishing, hunting and trapping regulations with DOW officials. For Ohioans who are unable to attend an open house, comments will be accepted online at beginning Feb. 12. Directions to the open houses can be found at or by calling 800-945-3543.

By Al Smith

Guest Columnist

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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