Sep 22, 2014
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RSS By: Grinnell Mutual,

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Be wary of weather that can affect ice thickness

Feb 18, 2014

Winter recreation enthusiasts are accustomed to watching weather forecasts so they can plan skiing, skating, snowmobiling, and fishing activities. Paul Christensen, a claims adjuster at Grinnell Mutual, knows how weather can be friend and foe. Last winter he had a close call while fishing with a friend on a private farm pond. 

"It was a nice day. When we started out on the pond it was below freezing, but it warmed up to 43 degrees and the ice was melting fast," said Christensen. "The ice was five-and-a-half inches when we started. While sitting in my ice shack we noticed that there was a lot of water sitting there, more than the little bit you get with a heater. The amount of water was excessive, so we checked the ice again."

Using a marked ice scoop, Christensen measured the ice thickness. The ice depth shrank to four inches, a minimum thickness for ice fishing.  Immediately they packed up the shack and their gear, getting off the ice. 

Watch for signs of bad ice

Weather conditions change through winter. Days get longer and temperatures rise. These conditions can cause ice to melt from the top and bottom. If you choose to go out on the ice, remember these tips:

  • Check ice thickness. Ice needs to be at least four inches thick for ice fishing. Avoid ice that is cloudy, slushy, or showing signs of discoloration -- these are signs of weakness, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. You can check ice depth using an ice auger or chisel. Check in multiple locations as ice depth is rarely uniform on a body of water.
  • Bring safety items. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recommends wearing ice picks and bringing at least 50 feet of rope and a floatation device for use in a rescue effort.
  • Fish with a friend. If your fishing buddy goes through the ice, call 911 for help, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Resist the urge to run to the edge of the hole. Instead, extend an object or throw a rope to give your friend something to grasp and pull to safety.

As weather conditions change in these last weeks of winter, don’t get trapped on thin ice. Be aware, check the ice, and bring equipment that you can use to rescue a friend or yourself.

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