Outreach Coordinator, MassWildlife
With the recent bone-chilling temperatures, many bodies of water iced over and ice fishermen, skaters and others are impatient to get out on the ice. Before venturing onto any frozen water body, here are some common sense measures you can take to make sure that the ice is safe.
Check ice by using a chisel to chop a hole to determine ice thickness and condition. In general 4 inches of clear blue ice is safe for foot traffic. Because the thickness of the ice will not be uniform all over the pond or lake, continue to chop more holes as you go further out on to the ice.
Don't venture onto ice bound rivers or streams since currents make ice thickness unpredictable.
Before you set out on the ice, be sure to wear or carry ice pins or picks. Ice pins are a set of two wooden dowels fixed with a spike that sticks out three to four inches and they hang loosely on two ends of a rope around your neck. Ice picks also will do the job. If you fall through the ice, use them like pitons, a device that rock and ice climbers use, to pull yourself out of the water and onto firm ice.
What if you or a companion fall through the ice? As with any emergency, don't panic! If you fall through the ice, briefly call for help. You must act quickly. Air will remain trapped in your clothes for a short time aiding your buoyancy. Kick your legs while grasping for firm ice and driving the ice picks into the ice. Pull your body up by using the ice picks or pins.