PIERRE, S.D. – A strange beginning to the winter season has officials urging both waterfowl hunters and ice anglers to use caution when venturing out to hunt and fish.
“Even with this last blast of cold weather, there is still plenty of open water for duck hunting,” said Joe Keeton, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) boating safety officer. “We often think of having enough life jackets during the summer boating months, but it can easily be forgotten during waterfowl seasons. When you are double checking your waterfowl gear; a lifejacket should be at the top of the list.”
Keeton also reminds hunters to check their duck boats for weight capacity, as boats used for duck hunting are often smaller in size so they can be launched into a variety of different environments. These smaller boats will then be loaded with gear; all of which add weight to the vessel and can quickly exceed the maximum capacity of the vessel. Overloaded vessels can easily capsize and swamp; especially in rough weather.
Ice anglers need to remember that the rule of thumb is it takes at least two inches of ice to support an angler, at least six inches to support an ice shack and over a foot for a vehicle, but that applies to strong, clear ice. Dark or cloudy ice is not as strong as clear ice.
If a person is going to venture out, they should also test ice conditions as they proceed. “Just because an angler sees six inches near the shore, doesn’t mean it will be six inches across the lake. Springs, current, wind or ice heaves all impact the formation of ice and can make ice very dangerous,” Keeton said.
Anglers are reminded to drill test holes to measure the thickness of the ice they are traveling on, have flotation devices available and tell someone where they are going.
“Let someone know what your hunting or angling plan is, and stick to your plan. If you don’t return within a certain time, rescue will know where to look for you if you get into trouble,” Keeton concluded.