KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Several days of freezing temperatures across Michigan have kicked off one of the state's famed winter sports: ice fishing.
Because of the extended cold, the ice has formed and the anglers are venturing out on the lakes. The experts recommend ice fishers take a few things with them, good equipment, and strong knowledge of the ice.
The first rule for ice fishing, is to understand the ice: how thick it is, how it got there and how quickly it can destablize. The recommended thickness for venturing onto on frozen lake depends on the activity, and weight. Generally:
These are rough guidelines for new, clear ice only. Double the thickness guidelines for snow covered or white ice. If the ice has snow or is white in color, the suggested thickness is 8 inches or thicker before heading out to ice fish.
So what are the ways to determine the ice thickness?
According to winter sport experts, use a tap measure after creating a whole one of these three ways:
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds those going out on the ice, that no ice is safe, iin part because ice forms unevenly. Still, the department offers these tips for understanding ice safety:
The natural resources department also offers advice for those who do fall through thin ice.
Once the ice question is answered, anglers should consider their equipment; there are a number of things they can take with them to ensure safety.
"The biggest technology change in the last couple of years has been the ice suit itself," said Randy Vandam, owner of D&R Sports Center in Kalamazoo. "Now, the suits are warm, they're waterproof, they're wind proof, so you're comfortable regardless of the situation. But the number one factor, they float."
Vandam said he knows several people who have fallen through the ice wearing those suits.
"They have felt that was a saving factor for them," he said.
Another piece of equipment suggested are ice picks. These will allow people to puncture the ice and gain grip if they fall through the ice.
If heading out on the ice without these pieces of equipment, there are other ways to ensure you are staying safe.
"The buddy system is another key safety factor. Don't walk right next to each other at the same time, follow each other," Vandam said. "A rope would be a good thing to have, relatively 25 foot section of rope or something that you carry with you to help each other out. There's a lot of things you can do, you know, distributing your weight and not fishing too close together. And just don't go out there if it's not safe."
Vandam said the safest way to determine if the ice is safe to walk on is to follow other people's tracks and be sure you are not the only one attempting to go out on the lake.