DNR encouraging folks to have fun — but be sure to stay safe on the ice!

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) — We’ve seen bitterly cold temperatures this new year, and the Department of Natural Resources conservation wardens are reminding all outdoor enthusiasts to go local to know the ice conditions before you go – and to be prepared if you break through the ice.

Warden April Dombrowski, who leads the crew of recreational safety wardens, says the DNR does not monitor ice conditions. She says it comes down to this: No ice is safe ice. You are encouraged to go local to get the latest info about your area lakes.

“It truly is up to the individual to learn the ice conditions. Talk to other ice fishers, snowmobilers, fishing clubs around the lake and bait store owners around the water body. These are the places locally most likely to have the most current information about the lakes and areas you want to use. Based on the varying conditions statewide, the DNR logistically cannot monitor ice conditions throughout Wisconsin. Similar to looking for information on how the fish are biting on a lake, it’s best to go with the local experts,” Dombrowski said.

And, like a lot of things in life, looks can be deceiving!

The ice conditions on any lake can vary from location to location.

“You cannot determine the strength of an ice cover by a single factor – including how thick it is, or how long it’s been forming or the snow on top of it. Moving water from streams, rivers and springs can cause ice to form unevenly,” Dombrowski said.

If you do go on the ice, Dombrowski and the wardens offer these standard ice safety tips:

  • Dress warmly in layers.
  • Don’t go alone. Head out with friends or family. Take a cell phone if available. And, if you have a cell phone or not, make sure someone knows where you are and when you are expected to return.
  • Know before you go. Don’t travel in areas you are not familiar and don’t travel at night or during reduced visibility.
  • Avoid inlets, outlets or narrows that may have currents 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.

Dombrowski says all ice users should be prepared for the possibility of breaking through the ice. She recommends learning these tips:

  • Wear flotation garments that provide buoyancy – such as a float coat or a life vest over a regular jacket.
  • If you have those picks, use those and kick your feet as you crawl out of the water hole. Keep your body low to spread out your weight.
  • Don’t stand up right away once you’re out. Roll or crawl on your stomach until the majority of your body is on solid surface.
  • Head toward the direction you came from to get to the ice cover that supported your weight.

“Wisconsin’s winters can be a lot of fun with all the outdoor recreational opportunities. With just a bit of planning for safety’s sake, you’ll come home with some fun stories about enjoying the outdoors,” Dombrowski said.

For more tips, the DNR also has information on its website about what to do should you fall through the ice and how to make ice claws: CLICK HERE.

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