As ice fishing season near its end, finding safe ice can vary from year to year. Unseasonably warm temperature and lots of rain and wind in March, will cause ice to honeycomb and break up quite quickly. Ice thaws from the top down, so it's crucial to ensure that you still have a good base level of solid (black) ice to stand on.
When March temperatures remain as cold as they did this year, safe ice will remain in most places in the province long after the season closes on April 1st. With only 4 days left to the season, there is still a good 16-18 inches of solid ice cover in most of the provinces Southern waterbodies, and a good 2 to 3 feet of solid ice once you go further North or ascend in altitude.
That being said, other factors and play into the complex equation or deteriorating ice conditions. Fishing the St Lawrence river, you need to factor in the varying strength of currents, back currents, as well as external factors such as ice breaking operations via giant hovercraft, ice breakers, and eventually, cargo ship traffic once the seaway is clear and re-opened to traffic.
Yesterday was a prime example. I was out on the ice with a few friends. Minimal snow cover allowed us to drive right out onto the river with our gear, and we were parked on solid ice about 20 inches thick.
Heading towards the ice's edge around mid morning, we noticed some deep cracks in the ice. a Good 100 feet or so of thinner ice and some broken up ice flows separated us from the open water.
Within an hour or so, the coast guard icebreaker was making it's rounds, probably last minute check to ensure the seaway was safe to re-open to commercial ship traffic.
Within minutes, the force of the current's undertow combined with 25+ KM winds separated some big sheets of solid ice we had been standing on, and we were now able to access the water's edge.
That was out cue to move our vehicles off the ice, as some new cracks were starting to form closer to where we were fishing.
Sure enough, the ice breaker made another round, and soon enough, the solid ice we were standing on started to separate and float downstream. Luckily, we had removed our lines and gear from the area a couple hours earlier. Though not as dangerous of a situation of honeycombed / deteriorating ice, last thing you need is to find your gear (or yourself) headed to Quebec city on a floating island.
As ice fishing season nears it's end, there is still some good fishing to be had in many areas. Just be safe and constantly aware of changing conditions.