By late December, the ice around Estevan is usually thick enough to support vehicles and fishing equipment, but with the milder temperatures lately, safety is a primary concern for Conservation Officer Lindsey Leko.
Thawing is rare before mid-March. The three month season gives winter anglers ample time and opportunity to get out on the ice. Leko shares, "I know the warm weather definitely would have an effect on the ice that's being made that we all walk out on. Right now on the lakes around the Weyburn and Estevan area were probably looking at thicknesses of 12 to 16 inches in thickness. But you know with the weather warming up quite a bit, I worry more about the heaves and areas like that, that are traditionally unsafe. We haven't had that really cold weather yet that makes that really good thick ice. So I would urge anyone going out fishing, to use extreme caution. Some of the things that I follow is I don't like going out on a lake anywhere, where someone hasn't gone before me. You don't need to be a trailblazer until you know for a fact that ice conditions are good. Those are some of the challenges you're going to have when you go out ice-fishing."
"Well, anywhere that you see water, I would definitely stay away from that. Any ice that is grey in color, a lot of times you'll get some cold weather where the ice will solidify, and then the warm weather and it thaws. Then you get that freeze/thaw effect that will actually weaken the ice, areas like that. Any type of structure such as pressure ridges or cracks, those are the types of areas you definitely want to stay away from. Layered ice is another one, from my ice rescue day, those are all things that I'm definitely on the lookout for when I'm out on the ice driving. Especially when you're moving into new areas you haven't been before."
License fees and limits are consistent throughout the year. However, winter anglers are allowed the advantage of using two rods at one time — twice the challenge but doubling your chances of bringing home a trophy fish. Leko continues, "And as for fishing you know, I know the guys are out and about right now. Just be aware of limits your fishing on, know in the winter time you can use two lines as opposed to one. You know you've got to be within 25 meters of your line, making sure that its within your view all the time. Something that always comes up is liquor in ice shacks, it's not allowed. You're not allowed to consume liquor or present liquor in any ice shack because it is not deemed a dwelling no matter how many beds or stoves you have in it. It seems to be an ongoing issue, people just want to drink in their shack."
Before you embark on your ice fishing adventure, check weather and ice conditions, pack winter survival gear and always tell someone when and where you are fishing, as well as your estimated return time. "Boundary still has a lot of open water, which is to be expected with that hot water return."
Alcohol is an issue, but in regards to the new legalized cannabis Leko mentions the rules, "My understanding is its deemed as a public place, it would be no different than smoking cannabis in downtown Estevan or downtown Weyburn. Its a public place and that's the way we're sort of treating it."
Leko goes on to say get out and enjoy getting your lines wet.