Tips for staying safe while on the ice this winter

You need a plan before you head out onto the ice and preparing ahead of time is the best way to avoid a potential tragedy.
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 5:45 PM CST
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LINN COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG) - With the ups and downs in temperatures we’ve been seeing throughout the winter, if you’re looking to go out to do anything on the ice, you may want to have a plan in place before you go.

“There’s no such thing as safe ice,” said Chuck Ungs.

Ice fishing...

It’s a staple not only in Eastern Iowa but throughout the Midwest. But with the fluctuating temperatures we’ve seen this winter... not all ice is always safe to be on.

”One of the things that we suggest to folks if they’re going to go out on the ice, that they haven’t been out recently, so they they aren’t already aware that the ice is solid is that they make their way out slowly,” said Ungs.

Chuck Ungs, Conservation Education Specialist for Linn County Conservation, said there are many steps you can take to stay safe if you’re planning a trip.

”The most important pieces of gear is right here and what this actually does is you would throw it over your head. And carry it with you. And if you get into trouble, you can give it. A little tug. And what these do is they have spikes on the end. They float, but I can grab hold of the ice and help to pull myself out,” said Ungs.

Jason Hansen, Deputy Fire Chief with the Marion Fire Department says it’s the constant changing of temperatures that makes the ice so unpredictable.

”Creates an unusual ice event and makes the ice unpredictable at times depending on what time you choose to be out on the ice. That can cause layering of ice and different layers that create a falsehood of how solid the ice can be,” said Hansen.

But if you do plan to head out any time this winter... After checking to make sure the ice is safe enough to walk on... using an auger can determine how thick the ice actually is.

“Zero to three inches is not safe. It’s never safe to ice fish on ice that thin. Once it reaches 4 inches, if you’ve got that clear hard ice, then that’s safe enough for one person to walk out on and to ice fish,” said Ungs.

5 inches is safe for a small group that’s spread out and once you’re up to 9-12 you could bring out a small car. And Ungs says going out in groups is the best.

If you do find yourself in the situation of falling through the ice or having a friend fall through...

”Call 911 immediately to get help coming,” said Hansen.

And use anything in the area to help pull them out.

But in the end... if you take time to plan...

”Once you’ve done that... have some fun,” said Ungs.