GREEN BAY, Wis. – If you choose to go out onto the ice this winter, know that the Wisconsin DNR says ice is never safe, but there are pieces of safety equipment you can take with you in case you fall in.
The Wisconsin DNR advises that ice is unpredictable as its thickness can easily change under certain conditions.
Also beware of frozen bodies of water that have snow on top, like a frozen lake, as snow can actually act as an insulator and make the ice thinner by making the water underneath it warmer.
Changing temperatures, currents, and ice breaking are all factors that contribute to dangerous conditions.
“So every year we have issues where people go through the ice because they weren’t aware of the conditions,” Chris Growth with the Wisconsin DNR said. “On the bay of Green Bay last year and this year they have ice breaking going on, so the wind causes those cracks to work even more.”
Cabela’s in Ashwaubenon has sold out of most of their ice fishing safety equipment in the past few weeks.
“In the last three, four weeks we’ve been getting cleared out so as far as ice safety equipment we still have some, but we’re getting real thin on it,” Eric Jorgenson, with Cabela’s, said.
There’s a range of ice safety equipment you can take with you, like ice cleats, so you don’t slip.
“You have all these different pieces of equipment in your hands, you slip, fall on those, there’s cuts, there’s broken bones, and you just number one make sure your feet are firmly on the ground,” Jorgenson explained.
If the ice caves in, you can use an ice pick to get yourself out.
“You can swing it, get it into the ice, and pull yourself out,” Jorgenson said.
Blaring noises can draw attention to an emergency.
“Another good thing to have if you’re out by yourself, is a horn,” Jorgenson said. “It’s a pressurized horn, you can lay on that thing until somebody hears you and can come over and assist you.”
It’s better to go out on the ice when someone is with you, instead of going alone.
If you fall in, a friend can throw you a rope with a floatation device on it.
“You go through, somebody knows you went through, there’s a floatation on it, it’s kind of the same thing as if you were in a boat,” Jorgenson said. “You go over the side, somebody throws you a float ring, pulls you in.”
You have just minutes to get out of the freezing water before it’s too late.
“You don’t have very much time once you go in the water, especially when you’re in a sub-zero day like today, hypothermia is going to set in awful quick,” Growth said. “And probably your self-rescue is going to be your best rescue.”
Another danger that can happen while ice fishing is using a propane tank in a shanty without proper ventilation, which can cause carbon monoxide to build up to lethal levels.