Here on the Whitefish Chain, many of our favorite winter activities take place on the ice, whether it's ice fishing, hockey, skating, spearing, cross-country skiing or snowmobiling. But remember, before you head out on the ice, you'll want to be sure it's safe. The DNR always asks the public to remember that ice is never 100 percent safe, so it's important to remember ice safety as you venture out onto our frozen lakes.
After a string of cold-weather days last week, the area is starting to build ice. Some fishermen have started making their way onto the smaller lakes. However, as of Dec. 15, the Ideal SnoPros Snowmobile Club is reporting that the ice is not yet safe for snowmobiles.
While fun is the name of the game on the Whitefish Chain, safety always comes first. Remember that around the chain there are inlets, outlets and channels where the ice may not be safe. Channels can be especially dangerous. If you're out snowmobiling, be sure to pick up a trail map at any one of many local businesses. Maps will show the safe route around the lake and around channels, once the routes over the ice open up for the season.
Following are ice thickness guidelines as laid out by the DNR. Remember, these guidelines are for good, clear ice:
- 2 inches or less: stay off.
- 4 inches: safe for ice fishing or other activities on foot.
- 5 inches: safe for an ATV or snowmobile.
- 8-12 inches: safe for a car or small pickup.
- 12-15 inches: safe for a medium truck
White ice or "snow ice" is only half as strong as clear ice, so double these measurements if white ice is present.
Before going out on the ice, check with a local fishing guide or bait store to make sure the ice is adequately thick. When you head out onto the ice for the first time, bring a method for measuring. Some carry a cordless drill and measuring tape to drill into the ice. Others use a chisel (spud) and check the ice every so often. Ice augers are another way to check the ice- and if you're headed out fishing, you probably already have one with!
It's important to remember that even if the ice is thick in one area, it may be much thinner in another area due to water currents. Check the ice frequently as you move across the lake to ensure your safety.
An ice safety kit is also a good idea. The kit should include ice picks, rope, an ice chisel and a tape measure. Wearing a life jacket onto the ice is another safety measure that is simple and can be a lifesaver.
On the Whitefish Chain, the outdoors are our greatest asset. Even though they come with a little risk, don't hesitate to get outside and have some fun- just remember ice safety when you do.