It's a potentially deadly combination.
In Aaron Lupacchini's district in Luzerne County, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Waterways Conservation Officer has seen anglers out ice fishing. But there's been no safe ice – proof that anglers are getting impatient waiting for safe ice to form in mid-January.
Lily Lake had three-and-a-half inches last weekend, same with Lake Irena and Lake Frances. There's no safe ice yet, Lupacchini said. With this warm weather we're having, it's just going to get worse.
At the PFBC's northeast regional office in Sweet Valley, regional education specialist Andy Fedor said although the agency doesn't monitor ice conditions, they've received calls and emails from anglers wanting to know where they could find safe ice.
Instead of recommending places to go, Fedor said they provide those who call and email with the resources to help make the right decision, such as ice safety charts.
Everyday from his office, Fedor has seen anglers make the decision to venture onto the ice.
We're seeing people out on Harris Pond every day, Fedor said last week.
Every angler has his or her own comfort level. It's a risk factor going out there at this early stage.
According to the PFBC, four inches of ice can support 200 pounds, with that weight increasing to 800 pounds when the ice reaches five inches thick.
Beaumont resident Bobby Jordan does his ice fishing on Lake Wallenpaupack. Although he has been out a few times this season, Jordan said conditions are getting risky.
There's only three inches on the bays and open water everywhere else, Jordan said. I don't recommend anyone without years of experience fishing the ‘Pack.
With the recent warm weather almost certain to reduce ice thicknesses far beyond those levels, Fedor expects the ice to degrade for the short term.
Lupacchini agreed, adding that he and other WCOs are paying close attention to anyone who ventures out onto whatever ice exists on area lakes and ponds.
Your first ice and late ice are always the most concerning. People push it a bit because they want to get out there, and then they push it again later because they don't want to see the ice go and they want to get one more trip in, Lupacchini said. We're paying real close attention now.
As of Thursday, Fedor said his office hadn't received any reports of anglers falling through the ice.
At Bald Eagle State Park in Centre County an ice fisherman went through the ice at Sayers Lake a few weeks ago and was rescued, according to the PFBC.
Still, thin ice has claimed the lives of two anglers not far away in Mount Olive, N.J., last week.
Police recovered the bodies of two 15-year-old boys after they fell through thin ice on Budd Lake. Ice fishing equipment was found at the scene.
Lupacchini strongly advised anglers to wear life jackets when venturing onto the ice and carry ice awls, ice cleats for walking and a rope.
Better yet, Lupacchini suggested that anglers be patient and wait for safe ice.
With this warm weather and rain it's going to get worse, he said. I think we'll get adequate ice, maybe not before next week, but if the temperature drops again the ice will come back.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will present an ice fishing clinic and safety course on Feb. 2 at Nescopeck State Park. The course will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and ice safety presentations will be held on Lake Frances if safe ice is available. For more information, call 477-2206.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will stock the following Luzerne County ponds with trout this winter:
Lake Irena – Feb. 1 (brook trout)
Lake Took-a-While – Feb. 1 (rainbow trout)
Lily Lake – Feb. 4 (rainbow trout)
Moon Lake – Feb. 1 (rainbow trout)