Hockey players, anglers testing the ice on Omaha-area lakes

6 News was out with Nebraska Game and Parks Tuesday to test the safety of ice on Omaha's lakes.
Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 10:32 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Blue skies over frozen lakes make for a perfect winter day to lace up the skates or drop a fishing line in the ice.

But is it safe? Nebraska Game and Parks’ Greg Wagner says, don’t risk it. To be sure, drill test holes as you venture out.

“Four inches of good solid lake ice supports one person,” Wagner said. “Now if you see people out fishing or they’re out playing on the ice, you don’t know how they got there... This is Nebraska, this isn’t northern Wisconsin, this isn’t northern Minnesota, we have dangerous spots even during the coldest periods on all lakes, ponds and reservoirs here in Nebraska.”

Bellevue’s Tim Hertzig has been ice fishing for the past 10-15 years, and said Lake Zorinsky’s ice measured up.

“About nine inches where I was,” he said. “If you get closer to the shore lines where the trees are poking up, you might want to be careful about that, but I was out (in the center and it was) sixteen feet deep with nine inches of ice.”

Ice fishing has become so popular that anglers like Hertzig can be fully geared up, even staying the night on the lake. But even with gear, they’re not putting the same stress on the ice as skaters.

“Ice skating or ice hockey, that’s gonna take more ice,” Wagner said. “You’re putting more pressure on the ice, that takes five or six inches of good solid lake ice.”

Over at Standing Bear Lake, former Omaha Lancer hockey player L.A. Ross cleared some ice so his 8-year-old son could try out his new skates on Christmas day, and locals are taking advantage.

“I grew up in Vermont, always had an outdoor rink to play on,” Ross said. “This year Standing Bear Lake froze up nicely, so I figured we’d come out and shovel it and give the kids an opportunity to skate outdoors.”

On Tuesday afternoon a group of college students, former high school players at Creighton Prep, took advantage of the conditions. Most years Standing Bear has enough ice to play a little outdoor hockey.

“We always like coming out here in the winter time, its always nice getting out on the lakes, it feels great out here,” Joe Abboud said. “The better game is played on the rink, but the funner game is on the lake.”

The City of Omaha Parks and Recreation Department does not officially approve of any on-ice sports, so you’re on your own there. And as far as ice fishing goes, just like any other type of fishing in state waterways, ages 16 and older are required to have a Nebraska Game and Parks permit.