Ice safety reminders

In my travels over the weekend trying to find a deer I noticed that a lot of the smaller lakes have finally frozen over. The bigger and deeper water bodies are still wide open but it won’t be long until they too, are ice covered until spring. Most of us haven’t been on the water in at least a few weeks so we’re eager to get out on the ice once we’re able to. Sometimes safe ice can help us in our hunting activities as well, to access more remote areas. If the ice is safe, get out there and use it but let’s go over a few things you should know before your ice adventure.

There is always somebody who has to be the first one on the ice. I am even seeing social media posts where an angler is essentially bragging about being the first one out on the ice. I was that guy at one time but you won’t see me taking many risks on the ice anymore. I’ve learned the hard way. I’ve never put a machine through the ice but I have fallen through late in the season, trying to get out for one last fishing trip. These were fall throughs near shore in nice weather so we were okay and kind of asking for it. But falling through this time of year can be a real problem so we don’t want to go down that road.

The good thing about the early season ice is it is crystal clear and very strong, compared the late season ice that will become coloured as it starts to get punky. That being said, there are simple guidelines to follow to stay safe and avoid putting others at risk – others being those that might follow your tracks and get themselves into trouble or first responders who might have to risk their lives to save you if you are careless.

For walking, cross country skiing or skating on the ice, it is recommended that you have at least 4” (10 cm) of good clear ice. 6-8” (15-20 cm) is recommended for a snowmobile or ATV, while 15” (38 cm) is recommended for a regular sized truck. Early in the season or anytime you’re on ice that you’re not familiar with, you should be checking it often with an ice bar or axe and have a legitimate ruler for measuring the ice thickness. Obviously, areas with current are going to be unpredictable ice that should be avoided.

I have gotten into trouble with ice more in boggy or swampy areas than I have on bigger lakes. These areas usually have a little bit of moving water and they collect a lot of snow that insulates the ice, both of which hinder ice growth. These areas are less scary than falling through the ice in the middle of the lake but they will ruin your day because your ATV or snowmobile will break through and usually they aren’t getting out without a pull of some kind. The soft mud bottoms don’t allow you to get in and push. I’ve been there a couple of times and it is no fun so avoid those swampy areas.

Winter is beautiful and we get plenty of cold weather to freeze everything up good and solid. Just be patient and wait until it’s safe before you get out there and have some fun.

Check the ice before you head out early in the season. Four inches is recommended for walking, with 6-8 inches for snowmobiles. If you’re going to be using the ice for transportation or recreation, travel with ice measuring equipment. – Jeff Gustafson photo