Being on Ice over Ponds and Lakes

When ice fishing, there are some main things to look out for:

1. Ice thickness

2. Staying warm

3. Having fresh air if you are in an ice shanty.

When ice fishing remember that the ice must be at least 2 inches thick to safely walk on.Always test the ice before heading out.Throw a rock or hold on to a sturdy tree branch and test the ice with your foot.

To stay warm, make sure you wear layers of clothing, such as a non sweat adhering cloth under garment such as cotton or fleece, then a wool over garment, and finally a wind breaker material. Remember, your legs need to be covered with layers too. Wool or fleece socks are important to keep your feet warm. Wool is better than cotton as it repels moisture. Cotton absorbs it. If your fingers begin to become cold and you are wearing gloves, you can bring in your fingers into the gloves and put your fingers together as they would be in gloves to warm the fingers.

If you ice fish in a fishing shanty, make sure your heater is in good working order. If you begin to be sleepy, or have a headache, turn off the heater and get into fresh air.

Refrain from drinking alcoholic drinks as it can give you a false sense of warmth.

Ice Thickness.

Before going onto ice over a lake, pond, or river be aware of ice thickness requirements for safe passage

1" - Unsafe to go on

2" - One person of average weight on foot

3" - Groups of walkers in single file

4" - General use for pedestrians - no vehicles

6" - Snowmobiles

7.5" - Two ton car

8" - Light truck

10" - 3.5 ton medium truck

12" - 8 ton heavy truck

Michigan Department of Natural Resources states:

  • Be aware that when vehicles follow each other across the ice it sends energy waves just like you see behind a boat that could possibly break the ice. Drive at least 500 feet behind the car in front of you.Be very cautious when driving a snowmobile and especially a car or truck on the ice.

  • When a car goes into the water the engine weight pulls it down, it turtles onto its top and it is very hard to escape.

  • You need to quickly get out before the car turtles, by opening the windows, get out and swim to the surface.

  • Don't try to open the door. The water pressure will make it very difficult to do so.

  • Things that affect ice thickness include:

Shallow water freezes faster than deep water.

Still or slow moving water freezes faster than fast moving water.

Vegetation such as seaweed causes the surface water to freeze slower.

Things such as tree trunks and posts, cause water to freeze slower.

Seeing water flow around an area of the lake could mean open water near.

Stay clear of conditions which cause slow freezing.

  • It is a good idea to wear a life jacket over or under your coat.Not only will it keep you afloat if you fall through the ice, but it will keep you warm.

  • If you fall into the water, stay calm.The layers of clothing you are wearing will help keep you afloat and warm.

  • When on ice, take two long spike nails tied on a cord. Have the cord draped on the back of your neck and down your coat arms to your hands. Another method is to duct tape the nails to your jacket. If the ice breaks, you can use the spikes to pull you out of the water back onto the ice. Stay flat on the ice and crawl towards thicker ice. You should also have at least a six foot piece of rope with you that can be used to toss to someone else who might have fallen through the ice.

  • If you are alone and don’t have your spiked nails, and fall through the ice, stay calm, and attempt to break the ice on the land side of the hole with your fists. Continue doing this and attempt to climb onto the ice.

  • If a person falls through the ice and you are the potential rescuer, stay calm, get a reaching device if possible.If there is no rope or sticks ... you can always use your jacket.Stay as far away as possible from the hole.Lie down on the ice and extend the reaching device as far as you can to pull the victim to safety.

  • Get the victim and you to warm shelter as soon as possible and treat the victim for cold exposure (hypothermia).

  • Always go on the ice with another person to assist if there is a problem.

  • When planning to go on the ice, let people on dry land know where you are going and when you plan to return. You should also have at least a six foot piece of rope with you that can be used to toss to someone else who might have fallen through the ice.