DES MOINES As the days get colder, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding residents to be careful when they're on Iowa lakes.
While anglers are embracing the cooler weather for ice fishing, there are some things to keep in mind.
“Ice fishing is a fun, inexpensive activity for anglers of all ages to get outdoors and avoid cabin fever," Joe Larscheid, chief of fisheries for the DNR said.
The DNR says before you go out fishing or riding ATVs and snowmobiles, you should know how thick the ice needs to be.
“Check ice thickness as you make your way to your favorite fishing spot,” Larscheid said. “Ice conditions change constantly and its thickness can vary across the lake."
The DNR recommends at least five inches of ice for snowmobiles and ATVs and a minimum of four inches of clear ice for fishing.
They say you should trust your instincts.
"If the ice does not look right, don’t go out," Larscheid said.
If fish are finicky, the DNR says you should cut a series of holes and spend 15 minutes at each hole.
They also provided the following tips for anyone planning to go out on the ice:
• New ice is usually stronger than old ice.
• Don’t go out alone - if the worst should happen, someone will be there to call for help or to help rescue.
• Let someone know where you are going and when you will return.
• Check ice thickness as you go out - there could be pockets of thin ice or places where ice recently formed.
• Avoid off-colored snow or ice. It is usually a sign of weakness.
• The insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process.
• Bring along these basic items to help keep you safe: hand warmers, ice cleats to help prevent falls, ice picks (wear around your neck) to help you crawl out of the water if you fall in, a life jacket, a floating safety rope, a whistle to call for help, a basic first aid kit and extra dry clothes including a pair of gloves.