Who's asking: Anna Bragdon, China, ME
Anna expected that my answer to this question would be that I would never drive a car across China Lake. That's true, as far as driving the car myself goes; I personally would not drive on ice voluntarily, under any circumstances.
But I'd be willing to ride along with someone else, as long as I thought the driver knew what he or she was doing, and as long as the ice on the lake was two feet thick.
The "two feet thick" requirement doesn't come from thin air; it's just over twice the thickness the Maine Ice Anglers association says is safe to drive a 7-8 ton truck on. Where ice is concerned, I believe in an excess of caution.
For the more reckless among you, the Ice Anglers say it's safe to drive a single-passenger automobile on ice that is at least seven inches thick. Keep in mind that the thickness of ice on a body of water can vary radically within a small area; it might be seven inches thick in one spot, but it's only four inches thick a few feet away. Don't be an idiot. Or rather, go right ahead, and take yourself out of the gene pool.
Smelt shacks are out on the Kennebec, but I don't think I'd go this weekend. The weekend of February 17-18 is open fishing, when people without a license can go. A friend has promised to take me if the weather holds, so that might be the best time for me to try it. This same "friend" tells me it's an ice-fishing tradition to bite the head off one's first catch, but I suspect this is a joke. It had better be a joke.