A heavy layer of snow has stalled what started out as good December weather for creating a thick, sturdy layer of ice over area lakes.

Those in the know say that, even though anglers are finding a solid foot of ice on portions of many lakes, everyone should still use extreme caution before deciding to drive a heavy vehicle out to their favorite fishing spot.

“I do have some concerns with the weight of the snow,” said Chris Howe, Department of Natural Resources conservation officer. “The weight can make the ice sag, so, when people are drilling holes or the ice cracks, water can come up and make slush.”

That, along with the thick snow cover, insulates the ice and keeps it from getting thicker even though the temperatures are below freezing, he said.

“I know I’m not driving my truck out on the ice,” Howe added.

For those without high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles, getting out on the ice can be tricky right now. The snow that fell during Christmas and through the weekend was thick and heavy, so it’s easy to get stuck.

That slush Howe was talking about makes getting out on the ice, on foot or in a vehicle, difficult, too, said Josh Wakefield. He took his son, Avery, out fishing Saturday on Lake Washington. They used a four-wheeler to get through the bumpy ice and snow.

He was fishing on Lake Francis near Elysian with a friend Sunday. They used a pickup to get out on that lake.

“There’s more than a foot of ice in a lot of places, but a lot of people are four-wheeling or walking,” Wakefield said. “There’s some spots on Lake Washington where there was only 8 inches, so you still have to be careful where you go. It helps to know the lake.”

Walter Hohn, owner of Walt’s Hook Line and Sinker bait shop near St. Peter, said some of his customers are driving out on area lakes. He’s not recommending that.

“You may have 10 inches where you’re at, but you could go a little ways away and you could only have six inches,” Hohn said. “That’s not enough ice to support much.

“I think a snowmobile is probably the best way to get around right now.”

The early ice has helped business, Hohn said. Things slowed down quickly in October when a spurt of cold weather had a lot of anglers putting their boats away early. A warm November helped a little bit, but business never really got rolling again.

His customers started coming back for bait in droves around the middle of December.

“It’s been really good since we started making ice,” Hohn said. “Now everybody’s chomping at the bit to go fishing again.”

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