We’re all anxious to get out on the ice this winter but it isn’t worth taking the risk when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Ice safety is no joke! Here is some information about judging ice conditions, being prepared to enjoy the winter season outside and what to do in an emergency.
“Thick and blue, tried and true. Thin and crispy, way too risky”
Before stepping on the ice check for a bluish color and that it is at least 4-6 inches thick. Even if the weather has been below freezing for several days, don’t guess about ice thickness. Check the ice in several places by using an auger, chisel or axe to make test holes beginning at the shore and continuing as you move out. If ice at the shoreline is cracked or squishy, stay off. Don’t go on the ice during thaws. Watch out for thin, clear or honeycomb shaped ice. Dark snow and dark ice are other signs of weak spots. Choose small sheltered bodies of water. Rivers and lakes are prone to wind and wave action, which can break ice up quickly. Avoid areas with currents, around bridges, pressure ridges or inlets and outlets.
If you don’t know, don’t go!
If you break through the ice, don’t panic. Don’t try to climb out, you will probably break the ice again. Lay both arms on the unbroken ice and kick hard. This will help lift your body onto the ice. Roll to safety. To help someone who has fallen in, lie down flat and reach with a branch, rope or form a human chain. Do not stand! After securing the victim, wiggle backwards to the solid ice. Seek treatment immediately for hypothermia (cold exposure).
Ice Thickness Permissible Load (clear, blue lake ice)
2 inches one person on foot
3 inches group of people walking single file
7 1/2 inches passenger car (2 ton gross)
8 inches light truck (2 1/2 ton gross)
10 inches medium truck ( 3 1/2 ton gross)
12 inches heavy truck (7-8 ton gross)
15 inches heavy truck (10 ton gross)
20 inches 25 tons
25 inches 45 tons
30 inches 70 tons
36 inches 110 tons
This table is for clear, blue ice on lakes. Reduce strength values by 15% for clear blue river ice. Slush ice is only half the strength of blue ice. This table does not apply for parked loads. This reference chart was published by the Forest Resources Association. They are merely guidelines.
Personally, I don’t suggest anyone step foot on any less than 4-5 inches.
When venturing out during the winter months remember to wear a hat and cover your face and neck. Most of your body heat is lost through your head and neck. Dress in layers of wool, silks or synthetics as they will keep you warm even when wet. Do not wear cotton. Insulated, waterproof boots, gloves and a windbreaker are also very important. Bring along some extra clothing. Also, remember it is always best to head out with a partner rather than alone. Make sure you leave information about your plans for the day and when you intend to return.
Lastly, be courteous when you’re out fishing or recreating on the ice. Use public access to ponds or ask permission to cross private land. Don’t crowd other anglers. Be sure the clean up your fishing area when you leave. Litter will wash ashore in the spring polluting the water and endangering people and wildlife. Always check the current regulations for the body of water you are fishing (www.mefishwildlife.com).
So far this winter Mother Nature hasn’t quite come through for us but please be patient and always be safe and smart in the Maine outdoors.