Safe Ice? Probably. Maybe.

Point is, be cautious out there and live to fish another day.

The recent cold snap put a fair covering on area ponds, along with the channels and backwaters of the bigger lakes. But folks will be smart to hold off on the fishing until next week.

Guys checking on Thursday were finding one and one-half to three inches of good ice under slush. That’s enough to walk on, probably, but hardly fit for a secure day of fishing.

Unfortunately, every year at first ice we hear about fishermen taking icy dunkings, or worse.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources recommends a minimum of four inches of solid ice before fishing.

Take a whack with a spud bar or drill test holes every few steps and go with friends, rope and a flotation device.

Keep in mind ponds, lakes and portions of the same lake do not freeze uniformly. Weak spots persist along muck shorelines, spring uprisings, former waterfowl roosts, inlets, outlets and beaver huts (yes, beware the beaver).

Again, beyond the current mild couple of days, another week of cold in the forecast should lock things up nicely.

A pair of area ice fishing contests are set.

On Jan. 30, the Eagles Club of La Porte, 190 W. McClung Rd., will hold its annual contest at Fish Trap Lake; $20 gets you in all categories during the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. event. Lunch will be available. Note that bass, pike and walleye will be measured at a weigh tent on the ice then released. Panfish may be kept. For more information, call Dan Thornberry at (219) 851-5047 or the club at (219) 326-8540.

The 44th annual Fish Lake Ice Fishing Derby is Feb. 6 with headquarters at the American Legion Hall, 302 Lakeside Dr., Walkerton. For more details, call Dave Coffman at (219) 369-1235.

Salmon Confidential: With Michigan considering whether or not to allow fish farming (aquaculture) in the open waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, anglers should be concerned and revisit the 2013 documentary Salmon Confidential, which is available on YouTube.com.

Salmon Confidential is a eviscerating look at fish farming practices which devastated native salmon and threaten an entire ecosytem in British Columbia. It’s a damning tale of pollution, disease, corruption and greed. And, sadly, it could play out here in the Great Lakes.

A good article on the situation appeared in the Detroit Free Press (www.freep.com) on Sunday and is titled Lohrer: Don’t turn Great Lakes into ‘toilet bowl.’

More information is available on the Michigan DNR website (www.michigan,gov/dnr) and Michigan Sea Grant (www.miseagrant.umich.edu).

No Pork: One of the first bass fishing lures I ever admired was a Uncle Josh Pork Chunk attached to a Johnson Silver Minnow spoon.

I mention ‘admire’ because I don’t remember actually catching a bass on one, but it sure looked tantalizing. And plenty of other anglers swore by the pork - simply stuck on a weedless hook, adorning a spoon or the legacy-building “jig-n-pig,” where a pork chunk was pinned on a skirted jig.

Sadly, Uncle Josh Bait Company, after a 93-year run, will no longer be producing pork rind baits.

Seems they can’t get the proper “fat back” skins due to modern farming practices which put thin-skinned pigs to market in six months instead of a couple thick-skin building years.

Originally, back in the 1920s, a couple anglers from Wisconsin who loved to catch bass with live frogs developed an imitation cut out of pork skins and brined is salt water.

Uncle Josh expects to run out of pork rinds this year, but will continue making other synthetic products.

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