There probably is no such thing as “safe” ice, but there are some guidelines anglers should consider. In Colorado, ice conditions can vary from lake to lake. Along the Front Range, it is especially important that anglers check ice conditions before heading out because of the region’s notoriously variable weather conditions. Many of the most popular lakes are managed by Colorado State Parks
, or local park authorities, and anglers should check with those managers about ice thickness before going out.
Before going onto a frozen lake, pond or river, it's important to take safety precautions to reduce the risk of falling through the ice. Remember you take a risk any time you go onto the ice. Anglers should always decide for themselves if it is safe to go out and walk on or drive a snowmobile on ice.
Knowing how to judge ice conditions will help you make more informed decisions while enjoying your outing. Ice thickness depends on several factors with the first and most obvious factor being location. The type of lake also affects ice thickness; a shallow lake will freeze faster than a deep lake. Look for clear blue ice. New ice is stronger than old ice. Ice thickness is not consistent. Beware of ice around partially submerged objects such as trees, brush, embankments or structures. Ice will not form as quickly where water is shallow or where objects may absorb sunlight.
When ice fishing, it is always a good idea to drill test holes or use an ice chisel as you venture onto a lake to help judge the thickness and character of the ice. These “Test” holes should be at no more than 30 foot intervals.
You should also have a safety kit specific to ice fishing whenever you go. The items on this list will help prevent someone or something from falling through the ice. If you or someone else should fall through the ice, know how to use these tools to perform a self-rescue or assist in a rescue . The safety kit list is at the beginning of each rescue guide.
Ice fishing is a great opportunity to spend time with family and friends. It is often more of a passive fishing effort than regular fishing, leaving plenty of time for good discussion and the telling of fishing adventures and tall tales. For those who have not tried it yet, go do it this winter!