Anglers Encouraged To Practice Safety On Ice This Winter
It’s that time of year when ice anglers and other recreationists will be heading out to Montana’s “hard” waters for the winter season.
Everyone needs to be safe around ice, whether ice fishing, ice skating, hunting, snowmobiling, or just taking a walk. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reminds folks that safety should be the number one concern during a day out on (or near) the ice. When on the ice, remember:
• Plan ahead … check the weather for changing conditions, tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return, and plan to bring a friend for company and safety.
• Anglers and other recreationists should be familiar with the water body they plan to fish or recreate on. The safest folks are those who pay as much attention to the changing conditions of the ice as they do to the fishing, skating, or snowmobiling conditions.
• If you have even the slightest doubt about the safety of the ice — stay off it and keep pets away from it as well. Nothing is ever worth a fall into frigid water.
• Blue or “clear” ice is usually hard. Watch out for opaque, gray, dark or porous spots in the ice that could be weak, soft areas. Ice also tends to thin more quickly at the shorelines.
• Note areas on the ice that look “different” … they usually are! Many times, thinner areas of ice (caused by springs, gas pockets, sunken islands, points, etc.) have a different color or look to them. Use extreme caution or stay away from these areas!
• The following are recommended minimum ice thickness guidelines (for good, clear ice*): Remember, no ice is 100 percent safe!
Under 4 inches: Stay off. 4 inches: ice fishing or other activities on foot 7 inches: snowmobile or ATV 10 inches: car or small pickup** 12 inches: medium truck** **not recommended but, if you must, proceed at your own risk. *for white ice or “snow ice,” double the above minimums.
• Test the ice ahead of you with an ice spud bar or an auger.
• Watch for pressure ridges. These are areas of open water or thin ice where the ice has cracked and heaved due to expansion from freezing.
• Don’t leave children or pets unsupervised on the ice.
• Lakes and ponds do not freeze at the same thickness all over. Some ponds have windmills to aerate water for fish survival, and ice may be thin near these areas.
• Moving water — rivers, streams and springs — weaken ice by wearing it away from underneath. Avoid going on ice on rivers and streams, or where a river or stream enters a lake, pond or reservoir.
• The least safe ice usually occurs early and late in the season, when the weather is warmer and less predictable.
Some other common ice-safety reminders to keep in mind include:
• Search for videos on ice safety and “what to do” if you should fall through the ice. One can be found here: https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=5gOW8ZaYqHA.
• Consider changes in the weather (and ice conditions) during the prior 24 hours.
• It’s OK to wear a life jacket or carry a throwable floatation device while out on the ice — safe ice anglers and recreationists do it all the time.
• Dress warm but practical. Many styles of ice fishing jackets and bibs provide extra buoyancy to help keep you afloat if you do fall through.
• Carry a pair of ice picks (long spikes on a heavy string around your neck). If you break through the ice, you can use the spikes to grip the ice and pull yourself out of the water.