Mild Weather Hampers Ice Formation - Ice Safety Tips

While November was kind to North Dakota's hunters, unseasonably mild temperatures did little to help usher in the ice fishing season. Knowing this, winter anglers are encouraged to use caution and allow ice to harden significantly before venturing on state waters.

Ice safety tips are important to know before ice fishing

North Dakota Game and Fish Department water safety coordinator Nancy Boldt said the daytime high temperature must remain below freezing for several days to start producing stable ice. "We are finally beginning to have this weather pattern, but it is going to take a consistent stretch of freezing temperatures to form solid ice," she said.

Boldt recommends anglers and trappers visit with locals, including other anglers and people at local bait shops, before going on any lake, especially one that is unfamiliar. "But it is also important to study ice conditions before accessing any of North Dakota's frozen waters," Boldt said.

Some ice safety tips to be aware of are:

* Snow insulates ice, hampering solid ice formation, and makes it difficult to check thickness. Snow also hides the blemishes, such as cracked, weak and open water areas.
* Avoid cracks, pressure ridges, slushy or darker areas that signal thinner ice. The same goes for ice that forms around partially submerged trees, brush, embankments or other structures.
* Ice thickness is not consistent and can vary significantly even in a small area. Ice shouldn't be judge by appearance alone. Anglers should drill test holes as they make their way out on the lake, and an ice chisel should be used to check ice thickness while moving around.
* Daily temperature changes cause ice to expand and contract, affecting its strength.
* The following minimums are recommended for travel on clear-blue lake ice formed under ideal conditions. However, early in the winter it's a good idea to double these figures to be safe: 4 inches for a group walking single file; 6 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle; 8-12 inches for an automobile; and 12-15 inches for a pickup/truck.

These ice safety tips could help save a life:

* Wear a personal flotation device and carry a cell phone.
* Carry ice picks or a set of screwdrivers to pull yourself back on the ice if you fall through.
* If someone breaks through the ice, call 911 immediately. Rescue attempts should employ a long pole, board, rope, blanket or snowmobile suit. If that's not possible, throw the victim a life jacket, empty water jug or other buoyant object. Go to the victim as a last resort, but do this by forming a human chain where rescuers lie on the ice with each person holding the feet of the person in front.
* To treat hypothermia, replace wet clothing with dry clothing and immediately transport victim to a hospital.