North Dakota Game and Fish Department personnel advise winter anglers to remain patient because ice conditions are not yet safe enough to support much weight.
Nancy Boldt, boat and water safety coordinator for the state Game and Fish Department, said even though temperatures remain below freezing, ice is just beginning to form. "We need several more days of temperatures to remain below freezing in order to start producing stable ice," Boldt said.
Even in the heart of winter ice thickness is not consistent, Boldt mentioned, and can vary considerably within a few inches. "Ice shouldn't be judged strictly by appearance," she said.
Winter anglers and trappers need to study ice conditions before marching out on any of North Dakota's frozen waters. The Game and Fish Department offers this advice:
Be aware on snow-covered ice as snow insulates ice, hampering solid ice formation, and it makes it difficult to check thickness. Snow also hides the blemishes, such as cracked, weak and open water areas.
Avoid cracks, pressure ridges, slushy or darker areas that signal thinner ice. The same goes for ice that forms around partially submerged trees, brush, embankments or other structures.
Remember, ice thickness is not consistent and can vary significantly with a few inches. Ice shouldn't be judged by appearance alone. Anglers should drill test holes as they make their way out on the lake, and an ice chisel should be used to check ice thickness while moving around.
Daily temperature changes causes ice to expand and contract, affecting its strength.
Visit with locals - other anglers and people at local bait shops - before going on an unfamiliar lake.
The following minimums are recommended for travel on clear-blue lake ice formed under ideal conditions. However, early in the winter it's a good idea to double these figures to be safe: 4 inches for a group walking single file; 6 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle; 8-12 inches for an automobile; and 12-15 inches for a pickup/truck.
These tips could help save a life:
*Wear a personal flotation device and carry a cell phone.
*Carry ice picks or a set of screwdrivers to pull yourself back on the ice if you fall through.
*If someone breaks through the ice, call 911 immediately. Rescue attempts should employ a long pole, board, rope, blanket or snowmobile suit. If that's not possible, throw the victim a life jacket, empty water jug or other buoyant object. Go to the victim as a last resort, but do this by forming a human chain where rescuers lie on the ice with each person holding the feet of the person in front.
*To treat hypothermia, replace wet clothing with dry clothing and immediately transport victim to a hospital.