Last Friday, the Rice County Sheriff's Department asked local ice fishing enthusiasts to stop driving their vehicles on Rice County lakes, due to the unseasonably warm weather we've been experiencing this month. As of January 20, three vehicles have gone through the ice; luckily no one was seriously injured in those incidents.

After seeing that announcement, I decide to take a little drive out to Cannon Lake and see what shape the lake and ice was in and whether it was starting to open up. My wife and I drove to the Shager Park boat access and saw that the lake itself had chosen to deny access to anyone trying to drive onto the ice. The ice had heaved up along the shoreline completely blocking the way to full-size vehicles, although ATVs could still squeeze through. We then headed back toward the beach in time to witness three individuals driving on the lake. I wondered how safe it was to still be on the ice so I called John Kubinski at John's Bait and Tackle and he assured me that the ice, which is still 16-18 inches thick, was thick enough to support a vehicle. The key is to take your time and keep an eye on the ice as you drive out to your ice fishing house. The wind and rain will degrade the ice faster than just the warmth.

John mentioned that the wind can swirl around in the open holes and expand an 8-inch hole into a 6-foot opening in no time. He also stated that it's the shoreline you have to watch for signs of the ice opening. My advice is to stop by his shop and talk with John about lake conditions and where the fishing are biting before heading out to the lake.

We then proceeded to drive around the lake, stopping in Warsaw to see that the water was open both upstream and downstream from the bridge. As we completed the loop, we saw that Cannon Lake was open at the bridge and into the lake and that Wells Lake appeared about two-thirds open. In both these cases it's good to keep in mind that the river is running through these areas, so they will open up sooner than the lake itself.

Just a heads up, if you've got an ice fishing shack on the lake, you might want to get it off the lake by this weekend. The temperatures are going to push into the mid-50s by Friday under very sunny skies this week.

A big thank you to John Kubinski at John's Bait and Tackle for the helpful info as I was putting this post together. He told me more than I could remember about ice fishing and I hope I've passed it along correctly.