With bodies of water beginning to ice over, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife along with the Maine Warden Service would like to remind ice anglers and others who enjoy outdoor winter activities of the importance of safety when around ice.

“We can’t stress enough the importance of checking ice conditions right now,” said Capt. Chris Cloutier of the Warden Service. “Never guess at the thickness of the ice – check it for yourself.”

Test the thickness of the ice using an ice chisel or ice auger and check with local bait shops for known thin ice areas. Remember that new ice is usually stronger than old ice and ice seldom freezes uniformly. Ice that forms over flowing water and currents, especially near streams, bridges and culverts, can be particularly dangerous.

Refrain from driving on ice whenever possible. If you must do so, make sure to keep the windows down, unbuckle your seat belt and discuss emergency plans with any passengers in case you need to exit the vehicle quickly.

Wearing a life vest under your gear and having a pair of accessible ice picks can be life-saving decisions if you do fall through the ice. Remember that your helmet and snowmobile suit, even if it’s non-buoyant, may keep you afloat for several minutes. Kicking your feet like a seal can help propel you onto the ice.

If you witness someone fall into the ice, call 911. Instead of putting yourself in danger by trying to reach the victim, assist them from the shore by reassuring them help is on the way and extend objects like a rope, ladder or jumper cables to them if it’s safe to do so.

While many factors other than thickness can cause ice to be unsafe, the Warden Service suggests staying off ice that is less than four inches thick. Ice that is at least four inches thick may allow for ice fishing or other foot activities while 5-inch thick ice often allows for snowmobile or ATV travel. Eight to 12 inches should support most cars and small pick-up trucks, but at least 12-inch ice is recommended to support a medium sized truck.

For more information, visit www.mainegamewarden.com.

Logo courtesy Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

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