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Ice Safety

  • Your safety is your responsibility! There is not a reliable "inch-thickness" to determine if ice is safe.
  • You can test ice thickness and quality using a spud, needle bar or auger.
  • Strongest ice: clear with bluish tint.
  • Weak ice: ice formed by melted and refrozen snow. Appears milky.
  • Stay off ice with slush on top. Slush ice is only half as strong as clear ice and indicates the ice is not freezing from the bottom.
  • A sudden cold front with low temperatures can create cracks within a half-day.
  • A warm spell may take several days to weaken ice, and cause the ice to thaw during the day and refreeze at night.
  • Ice weakens with age.
  • If there’s ice on the lake but water around the shoreline, be extra cautious.
  • Stronger the current on the lake, the more likely the ice will give to open water.
  • Avoid areas of ice with protruding debris like logs or brush.
  • Keep an eye out for dock bubblers or de-icers as the ice near these mechanisms will be unsafe. Always check the ice and be aware of your surroundings.


ice spikes

Tools you need:

Spud: Long-shank with a chisel-like end that’s used to chip a hole in the ice. Use this when the ice isn’t too thick.

Auger: Corkscrew-like device with a cutting blade that operates like a hand drill to make a hole in the ice.


Ice picks/claws

Two-way communication device that receives signal.

snow covered ice

Ice covered by snow:

Should always be considered unsafe.

Snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows freezing process.

Ice under snow is thin and weak.

A recent snowfall can melt existing ice.

a man getting rescued from a hole in the ice

If you do break through the ice:

Remain calm

Don't remove winter clothing. Heavy clothes won't drag you down, but instead provide warmth.

Turn in the water toward the direction you came from, this is most likely the strongest ice.

If you have ice picks, dig the points of the picks into the ice while vigorously kicking your feet to pull yourself onto the surface by sliding forward on the ice.

Roll away from the area of weak ice. Rolling on the ice will distribute your weight to help avoid breaking through again.

Get to shelter and remove your wet clothing, redressing in warm, dry clothing and consume warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages as soon as you can.

Call 911 and seek medical attention if you feel disoriented, have uncontrollable shivering or have any other ill effects that may be symptoms of hypothermia, which is a life-threatening condition.