Ice Fishing Is Risky in Oklahoma

Glenn Titus Published: January 21, 1982

"Hard water" fishing in cold weather can be as productive and enjoyable as that in warm weather.

With insulated clothing now available to outdoorsmen, sitting in a lawn chair in the middle of a frozen lake in near zero temperatures can be comfortable.

However, when that arctic wind comes whistling down the Great Plains with only a three-strand barbed wire fence to slow it, I find shelter.

The dangerous part of such fishing in Oklahoma is thin ice. It takes a minimum of four inches of solid ice to hold a man safely.

Take it from someone who, as a kid, took the plunge. There is no fish worth risking an ice water bath and possible death.

The ice on this particular pond was about nine inches thick, but I strayed across an area where the current of an inlet from another pond had eroded the ice from beneath.

Luckily the water was only waist deep, but I nearly froze on the two-mile walk home.

With the freezing and thawing that has occurred on our ponds and lakes recently, ice is thick in some spots and thin in others.

Ponds without a flowing inlet or spring are the first to freeze a safe layer. Oklahoma lakes seldom have a uniform four-inch minimum of ice. Inlets, currents, springs and wind all cause uneven freezing.

In Oklahoma, river ice is not to be trusted. Currents are bad enough, but the mineral content in some streams also alters ice formation.

Snow cover, as freezing begins, often results in soft ice that although thick, is weak.

When ice appears black, snow, rain or warm water beneath has changed the crystalline structure to long, needle-like shards that crumble easily.

If you understand these risks, and you are still bound to go ice fishing, take precautions. has disabled the comments for this article.