WDNR Does Not Monitor Ice, Ask Locals For Ice Conditions

An article from WWA’s Words From The Wardens.

This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s January 1, 2019 eNewsletter.

By WDNR Chief Warden Todd Schaller

MADISON – As we head into winter, one thing is undeniable – the cold season’s weather is unpredictable, making staying alert to sometimes rapidly changing conditions a top priority for waterfowl hunters who head out to enjoy other activities.

From an early January deep freeze to a January thaw, from heavy snowfalls to rapid melts to swell waterways, please make ice safety part of your winter routine. The best way to reach that all-important safety goal is to check with your local fishing shops, snowmobile or cross-country ski clubs, outfitters, bait shops – any local business or club will have the best information about the local conditions. Always seek their counsel before you leave on an outdoor adventure that may involve going on the ice.

Since we at the Department of Natural Resources do not monitor ice conditions, we also strongly recommend extreme caution when your activity involves ice – and consider that no ice is safe ice. Again, seek that local report to know before you go.

Even though it may look thick on the surface, moving water from streams, rivers and springs can cause ice to form unevenly.

Here are more safety tips that are easy to follow – and could save your life:

  • Know before you go. Don’t travel in areas you are not familiar and don’t travel at night or during reduced visibility.
  • Dress warmly in layers and consider wearing a life jacket or vest.
  • Do not go alone. Head out with friends or family. Take a cell phone and make sure someone knows where you are and when you are expected to return.
  • Avoid inlets, outlets or narrow waterways that may have current that can thin the ice.
  • Look for clear ice, which is generally stronger than ice with snow on it or bubbles in it.
  • Carry some basic safety gear: ice claws or picks, a cellphone in a waterproof bag or case, a life jacket and length of rope, and a spud bar to check ice while walking to new areas.
  • Wear creepers attached to boots to prevent slipping on clear ice and take extra mittens or gloves so you always have a dry pair.

Frost morning in Waushara County. Photo by WDNR Warden Ben Mott

If you go through the ice:

  • Carry a set of ice picks in your pocket to help you climb out of the ice hole.
  • Once out of the water, do not stand up. Rather, walk on your forearms until the majority of your body is on solid surface.
  • Try to remain calm, call for help and take steps to get out of the water as soon as possible.

At DNR, we want you to be safe enjoying the outdoors. Common sense is the greatest ally in preventing ice related incidents. One rule of thumb remains the same: Treat all ice as unsafe.

The DNR also has information on its website about what to do should you fall through the ice and how to make ice claws. Learn more here.