Up The Creek: No Ice is Safe Ice
By Ken M. Blomberg
It made national news last week when nearly three-dozen fishermen were rescued from an ice floe on Superior Bay near Duluth. According to the Duluth Fire Department, 36 fishermen and their equipment were stranded on the ice around 10:40 a.m. when strong northeast winds caused the ice to break away from shore.
Retired Vista Fleet Capt. Tom Mackay said “Saturday’s weather resulted in a seiche, which is when the wind is so strong it pushes water to one end of a large body of water, causing levels to rise. Since the ice on Superior Bay wasn’t locked in to the shore, it came loose and floated out into the bay.”
We noticed local ice fishermen on early ice during deer hunting season last month. Backwaters of the Wisconsin River freeze first. The moving water in the main channel is still ice free in many areas. All ice in the main channel is not safe.
No ice is safe ice. That’s the word from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Early-season ice on ponds, lakes and rivers has prompted an annual DNR reminder to winter anglers, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts that no ice is safe.
According to Capt. April Dombrowski of the DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement Recreation Safety and Outdoor Skills Section, “The DNR does not monitor ice conditions stressing the importance of knowing before you go. Remember, she says, even though it may look thick on the surface, moving water from streams, rivers and springs can cause ice to form unevenly. Your best option for the most reliable ice conditions is to ask local businesses and sporting organizations about the area’s conditions before you go on the ice.”
The DNR recommends the following before venturing out on the ice; “Know before you go. Don’t travel in areas you are not familiar and don’t travel at night or during reduced visibility. Dress warmly in layers and consider wearing a life jacket or vest. Do not go alone. Head out with friends or family. Take a cell phone and make sure someone knows where you are and when you are expected to return. Avoid inlets, outlets or narrow that may have current that can thin the ice. Look for clear ice, which is generally stronger than ice with snow on it or bubbles in it. Carry some basic safety gear: ice claws or picks, a cellphone in a waterproof bag or case, a life jacket and length of rope, and a spud bar to check ice while walking to new areas. Wear creepers attached to boots to prevent slipping on clear ice and take extra mittens or gloves, so you always have a dry pair.”
Also, prepare ahead of should the unthinkable happen – you go through the ice. “Carry a set of ice picks in your pocket to help you climb out of the ice hole. Once out of the water, do not stand up. Rather, walk on your forearms until the majority of your body is on solid surface. Try to remain calm, call for help and take steps to get out of the water as soon as possible.” The DNR also has information on its website about what to do should you fall through the ice and how to make ice claws. Learn more by searching the DNR website for “ice safety.”