Stay safe while out on the ice

Published 10:13 am Wednesday, January 6, 2016

It looks like winter is finally here to stay — at least for a few months.

With the cooler temperatures, ice fishermen are flocking to their favorite watering hole.

At the start of the ice fishing season, we wanted to offer a few tips for staying safe on new, clear ice from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The agency offers guidelines on depth and traveling on ice.

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• Two inches deep or less: People should stay off of the ice.

• Four inches deep: People can safely ice fish or do other activities on foot.

• Five inches deep: It is safe to bring out snowmobiles or ATVs.

• Eight to 12 inches deep: The ice can support a car or a small pickup

• 12 to 15 inches deep: The ice can support a medium truck.

The DNR notes that white ice — also known as snow ice — is only about half as strong as new, clear ice. People should double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.

People can check the thickness of the ice by using an ice chisel, ice auger, cordless drill with a long bit, or a tape measure.

When it is safe to park cars on ice, the DNR recommends people park at least 50 feet apart and move their vehicles every two hours to prevent sinking. It suggests making a hole next to the car. If water starts to overflow the top of the hole, the ice is sinking and it is time to move the vehicle.

According to the DNR, people should check for known thin areas of ice and refrain from driving on ice whenever possible. If you have to drive on the ice, be prepared to leave the car in a hurry.

The agency recommends staying away from alcoholic beverages while on the ice and wearing a life vest under winter gear when ice fishing or driving a snowmobile.

The agency said it is often very difficult to pull yourself back onto the surface of unbroken but wet and slippery ice while wearing a snowmobile suit weighed down with water. Ice picks can be extremely helpful.