This is the second article in a series of two about ice fishing in the Magic Valley. Read the first article here

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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – Ice fishing can be a great way to spend a morning, but the opportunities for you to get out and try your luck on the ice is diminishing the closer we move to spring.

As the saying goes, you better get out while the getting is good. Just make sure to put safety first.

Knock on wood, there haven’t been any fatalities in Idaho this year associated with people falling into icy water, said Doug Megargle, regional fisheries manager with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. But that doesn’t mean people haven’t taken a plunge.

If you plan to use your auger while you still can, here are some tips to help keep you safe on the ice:

Make sure it’s strong ice: Never walk on a frozen lake or reservoir that doesn’t have at least 4 inches of clear ice, and at least 10 to 12 inches of clear ice before you take a vehicle onto it. Clear ice is strongest. Going onto murky-colored ice is a chance you’re taking at your own risk.

“There could be soft spots that won’t hold you,” Megargle said. "If in doubt, drill a hole to see ice thickness."

Bring the right equipment: It’s better to be safe than sorry, and having the right equipment with you is important in case of an emergency.

Megargle suggests having ice picks on your body at all times so they are easily accessible if you were to take an unexpected plunge into the frigid water. Without picks, you could struggle in vain to get ahold of wet and slippery ice and fail at pulling yourself out.

Let’s not forget the rope: Chances are you’re not the only person on the ice. Having several feet of rope with you is important in case you have to help pull someone else out of the water. A 50-foot rope is a good choice, Megargle said.

A mistake would be for you to get too close to where the mishap occurred. If ice was weak enough to send your buddy through the ice, it could do the same to you. A rope allows you to give assistance without being on top of the compromised ice. Simply toss the rope and pull the wet angler out of the water.

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Don’t neglect this tip: Some anglers either forget or purposely ignore this simple rule: Never go ice fishing alone.

Why? In case you need help getting out of the ice, in case you need to help someone else out, and because it’s simple common sense.

Always fish in pairs, Megargle said.

Safety begins long before you get onto the ice, and one of the first things to do is plan a trip with someone. This is a good rule to live by when going on any outdoor adventure, no matter the season or weather conditions.

If you do decide to go alone, tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back – and stick to the plan, he said.

Dress appropriately: Even if it’s sunny outside, be sure to bring enough clothing to keep you warm if Mother Nature decides to change her mind. Dressing in layers can be good, but don’t forget to protect your ears, feet and hands.

Water, water everywhere: It can be easy to forget to bring drinking water when ice fishing, but dehydration can also occur in the cold. Your body exerts itself more than you think when on the ice, especially when using hand augers and setting up for your day on the lake. Sometimes you move from place to place, drilling new holes.

Other tips for winter anglers:

What if I don’t have an ice-fishing rod?

No worries, there are several other ways you can drown a worm.

If you have a full-length rod that is broken, you can compromise and use the bottom have of it. You can use a full-size spinning rod, or even wrap line around a soda can, Megargle said.

“You don’t have to buy tons of gear to go ice fishing,” he said. “All you need is something to get you to the ice, something to scoop the ice, and something to get a line to the fish.”

What if I want to go fishing but don’t want to venture onto the ice?

You’re in luck. There are several fisheries in the Magic Valley that offer angling fun in the cold weather, but without the icy adventures.

Megargle suggests Filer Ponds and Dierkes Lake, but rivers and streams are open all year too, including Billingsly Creek, Lower Malad River and Rock Creek. Higher elevation waters may be difficult to access due to snowpack.

Oh, and one last thing: Don’t forget your fishing license.