By Bob Humphrey
The heart of winter is here and many folks in northern states will be venturing out onto the ice to ice fish and ride snowmobiles, ATVs and Side-by-Side vehicles. What follows are a few safety tips whether you’re venturing out on the ice on foot or (especially) on or in a vehicle.
• Avoid areas with currents such as stream or river inlets and outlets. Moving water often means thin ice.
• Avoid areas around bridges and pressure ridges as ice may be thin or absent here as well.
• Avoid shoreline areas if ice is cracked or spongy, or any areas of thin, clear, honeycombed or dark ice, all of which can be signs of weak spots.
• Check ice thickness before venturing far from shore. Use your ice auger or some other device to make a test hole and determine thickness. Continue testing as you make your way out onto the lake.
• Never check the ice alone. For that matter, never venture out on the ice alone, period. Make sure you have a partner, so there is someone there to help if necessary.
• Follow established trails. Traditional routes are usually established on the safest areas.
• Take along ropes and personal flotation devices.
Hopefully you never will, but if you should break through the ice...
• Don’t panic. Once the initial shock of ice-cold water passes, try to calm yourself.
• Reach for solid ice.
• Lay both arms on the unbroken ice and kick hard to help lift your body onto the ice.
• Once on the ice, roll, DON’T WALK, to safety.
• To help someone who has fallen through the ice, lie down flat and reach with a branch, plank or rope or form a human chain. Don’t stand. After securing the victim, wiggle backwards to the solid ice.
(Some information provided courtesy of the Maine Warden Service.)