Hunters and anglers are reminded to be cognizant of early ice conditions before traveling onto and across North Dakota waters.
Game and Fish Department education coordinator Brian Schaffer said there haven't been enough days when the high temperature has remained below freezing to produce stable ice. "There are already small and mid-sized waters that show the appearance of safe ice, but looks can be deceiving," Schaffer said.
And with deer season opening Friday, Nov. 8 at noon, an estimated 60,000 hunters will be in the field the next two weeks. Schaffer said even though deer might be able to make it across smaller waters, it doesn’t mean hunters can.
"Hunters walking the edges will not find the same ice thickness in the middle, as the edges firm up faster than farther out from shore," Schaffer added, while urging hunters to be cautious of walking on frozen stock ponds, sloughs, creeks and rivers.
A few reminders include:
- Snow insulates ice, which in turn inhibits solid ice formation, and hides cracks, weak and open water areas.
- Ice can form overnight, causing unstable conditions. Ice thickness is not consistent, as it can vary significantly within a few inches.
- Avoid cracks, pressure ridges, slushy or darker areas that signal thinner ice. The same goes for ice that forms around partially submerged trees, brush, embankments or other structures.
- Anglers should drill test holes as they make their way out on the lake, and an ice chisel should be used to check ice thickness while moving around.
- Daily temperature changes cause ice to expand and contract, affecting its strength.
- The following minimums are recommended for travel on clear-blue lake ice formed under ideal conditions. However, early in the winter it’s a good idea to double these figures to be safe: 4 inches for a group walking single file; 6 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle; 8-12 inches for an automobile; and 12-15 inches for a pickup/truck.
While heading onto North Dakota lakes this winter, Schaffer offers these life-saving safety tips:
- Wear a personal flotation device and carry a cell phone.
- Carry ice picks or a set of screwdrivers to pull yourself back on the ice if you fall through.
- If someone breaks through the ice, call 911 immediately. Rescue attempts should employ a long pole, board, rope, blanket or snowmobile suit. If that’s not possible, throw the victim a life jacket, empty water jug or other buoyant object. Go to the victim as a last resort, but do this by forming a human chain where rescuers lie on the ice with each person holding the feet of the person in front.
- To treat hypothermia, replace wet clothing with dry clothing and immediately transport victim to a hospital.