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Rules for Ice Fishing Safety

Headlines - Region 4

Tue Dec 22 00:00:00 MST 2009

The ice fishing season is here, but ice conditions may vary and not always be safe.

Starting with the recent cold snap, ice begins to firm up, then melts when temperatures fluctuate. That means ice safe yesterday may be a death trap tomorrow.

Whatever the weather, it's best to test the condition of the ice before venturing forth. Ice thickness depends on a number of factors: currents, inflows from streams, water depth, underwater springs or other features protruding through the ice. Slight changes in any of these can lead to uncertain ice conditions.

Here are some tips for staying safe on the ice:

· There should be a minimum of six inches of hard ice before individual foot travel.

· Stay off the ice along the shoreline if it is cracked or squishy. Don’t go on the ice during thaws.

· Watch out for thin, clear or honeycombed ice. Dark snow and ice may also indicate weak spots.

· Small bodies of water tend to freeze thicker. Rivers and lakes are more prone to wind, currents and wave action that weaken ice.

· Don’t gather in large groups on the ice.

· Don’t drive large vehicles onto the ice.

· If you break through, try not to panic. Move or swim back to where you fell in. Lay both arms on the unbroken ice and kick hard. This will help lift your body onto the ice. A set of ice picks, worn around the neck, can aid in a self-rescue. Once out of the water, don’t stand but roll away from the hole until you reach solid ice.

The best method for determining ice thickness is carry a spud bar, or chisel, and test the thickness when walking onto a frozen lake. That's especially true if no one recently has been on the lake.