With New Years behind us, a lot of people are looking forward to getting involved in seasonal outdoor activities, including skiing and snowshoeing. By January, the ice fishing season has usually kicked off in most of the region; in fact, in some areas, it is a tradition to do some ice fishing on New Years Day. Of course, a lot of this depends on the weather. Mild winters do not bode well for ice fishing, since they usually don’t provide enough ice to safely support people. This winter has been unusually wet and mild, and a person ended going through the ice at Prompton Lake, near Honesdale recently. Luckily, he was able to get himself out of the water, and arriving rescue personnel pulled him to safety.
So how much ice is needed to safely walk on? In a December 19 press release from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), Commissioner Basil Seggos had a warning for anglers ready to get an early start to the season. “The rush to get out onto the ice can lead to tragedy unless anglers remain vigilant about the condition of the ice,” he said. “Anglers should heed DEC’s recommendation of at least four inches of solid clear ice before venturing out.” It’s worth adding that four inches of ice is adequate for a single person. Anything more than that on the ice, including vehicles such as snowmobiles and ATVs, or crowds of people, require thicker ice.
Additionally, be forewarned—just because one area of the lake may be safe does not mean that the entire lake is safe. Wherever there is moving water—springs or inlet streams, for example—the ice will be thinner. Snowmobile tracks on the lake do not necessarily mean the lake has thick ice. Check the depth with an auger and make sure you don’t access the lake too close to an inlet or outlet stream. Consider carrying ice claws or spikes for self-rescue should you get unlucky and fall through. Use the picks to scoot away from the hole for several feet before trying to walk. A toboggan can be used to spread your weight until you get to an area of thicker ice. If you see a pet or animal that has fallen through the ice, do not try to rescue it yourself. Call emergency services—most fire departments are equipped for cold water rescue and can rescue an animal safely. Too many people end up having to be rescued themselves, or even losing their life in this situation.
On behalf of The River Reporter and all the River Talk columnists, welcome to the new year and enjoy the outdoors, whether it be ice fishing or some other activity. Above all, have a sane 2019.