Matt and John Russell know they're not the first ice fishers on Steinhart Pond in Nebraska City, but they might be the first to catch a trout under the city's new fishing rules.
The city parks department marked off an area for ice fishing on Monday and measured the ice at nearly five inches Tuesday morning after the Russells drilled a hole.
The Russells, 2009 graduates of Nebraska City High School, try to do some ice fishing every winter and were looking for a place this year while home on Christmas break from Wayne State and Morningside.
They said Steinhart Pond is a draw for ice fishing because it has cold-water loving trout. Matt said they were just testing Tuesday to see if the trout would bite and were getting plenty of line action.
“If you want to keep the fish it's a great place,” said Matt.
The city is hoping for an official opening to ice fishing and ice skating while kids are out for Christmas vacation next week.
Hours will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or up to 8 p.m. depending upon lighting.
Signage is up designating the east end of the pond for ice skating and the west side for ice fishing.
The inlet area on the west is block off.
Public Properties Director Dan Giittinger said the ice is about six inches thick.
“It's able to hold up a snowmobile or something like that, so it should be safe for people to be on,” he said.
In recent years, the city has not allowed any winter activities on the pond.
Giittinger said the Nebraska Recreational Liability Act relieves the city of liability for recreational uses when there is no charge.
John Russell said it's easy to get started in ice fishing.
“Buy a pole and drill a hole,” he said.
The men said the traits of a good ice fisher are patients and a tolerance of the cold.