Lake Ice Still Unsafe

Concord — December 23, 2009 — Many small lakes and ponds have frozen over, but ice conditions may not be safe, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department officials have warned.

“The ice may look inviting, but the best assumption to make is that no ice in the state is safe at this time,” said Major Tim Acerno of Fish and Game Law Enforcement. “The holiday season is upon us and we’re all anxious to start enjoying winter sports, but the department urges everyone to be patient and wait for better conditions. Any adventures on the ice could be dangerous.”

As the temperatures continue to fall in coming weeks, and the ice begins to thicken, assess ice safety before you go out by using an ice chisel or axe to chop a hole in the ice to determine its thickness and condition. Continue to do this as you get farther out on to the ice, because the thickness of the ice will not be uniform all over the water body.

Though all ice is potentially dangerous, the Cold Region Research Laboratory in Hanover offers a “rule of thumb” on ice thickness: There should be a minimum of 6 inches of hard ice for individual foot travel, and 8 to 10 inches of hard ice for snow machine or ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) travel.

Keep in mind that it is possible for ice to be thick, but not strong, because of varying weather conditions. Weak ice is formed when warming trends break down ice, then the slushy surface re-freezes. Be especially careful of areas with current, such as inlets, outlets and spring holes, where the ice can be dangerously thin.

Tips for staying safe on the ice include:

• Stay off the ice along the shoreline if it is cracked or squishy. Don’t go on the ice during thaws.

• Watch out for thin, clear or honeycombed ice. Dark snow and ice may also indicate weak spots.

• Small bodies of water tend to freeze thicker. Rivers and lakes are more prone to wind, currents and wave action that weaken ice.

• Don’t gather in large groups on the ice.

• Don’t drive large vehicles onto the ice.

• If you do break through the ice, don’t panic. Move or swim back to where you fell in, where you know the ice was solid. Lay both arms on the unbroken ice and kick hard. This will help lift your body onto the ice. A set of ice picks can aid you in a self-rescue (wear them around your neck or put them in an easily accessible pocket). Once out of the water, roll away from the hole until you reach solid ice.

Ice safety is just as important for snowmobilers.

“Better conditions are coming, but even then, be sure to check local conditions before heading out on snowmobile trails or on the ice. Don’t assume a trail is safe just because it’s there,” says Acerno. “Ask about trail conditions at local snowmobile clubs or sporting goods shops before you go.”

To download a brochure from N.H. Fish and Game called “Safety on Ice – Tips for Anglers,” visit

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