LINCOLN - Last week much of southeast Nebraska went through one the most prolonged cold snaps this winter, as several areas didn’t get out of the single digits. This week, however, areas are seeing temperatures anywhere from the high 40’s to the upper 50’s, and some areas may hit 60 if they haven’t already. This could mean an early end to the ice fishing season in the southeast region, or, at the very least, make it much more difficult and dangerous.

Darryl Bauer of Nebraska Game and Parks explains.

“I say you have to be careful anytime you walk on it, but late February, we’ve had changing conditions for two months,” Bauer said. “You just want to check the ice conditions every time you walk on it to make sure it’s safe.”

Bauer said using a tool called a spud can help judge ice quality and depth, as fishing on ice of certain thickness is one of the key safety components of the sport.

“I’d tell you in December, around first ice, four inches of ice to be safe,” Bauer said. “But late in the year, four inches may not be enough… The quality of the ice isn’t as good or you may have six or eight inches of ice, but the top four or five inches may just be really slushy so you need to check.”

Another scenario that comes into play as temperatures rise is ice changing throughout the day. The ice a fisherman gets on after a cold night, might not be the same quality after a few hours of daylight.

"In the morning when it’s cold, when you get on, the ice is pretty good, but by that afternoon after it’s warmed up the ice conditions may have deteriorated and you find yourself having trouble getting off at the end of the day,” Bauer said. “You have to evaluate it through the day to especially on these warm days like this.”