Ice activities can be fun, but be aware of risks

Some like drilling holes in ice to tempt fish into frying pans, while others enjoy gliding on ice skates. My favorite icy pastime is trekking along the edges of a frozen lake or stream. It’s easy to move silently, wildlife is readily observed and their travels can be unraveled in snowy trails.
Regardless of the activity that takes you onto frozen water, be familiar with the inherent safety risks.
You can’t judge the strength of ice just by its appearance, age, thickness, temperature, or whether or not the ice is covered with snow.
Strength is based on all these factors including the depth of water under the ice, size of the water body, currents and distribution of the load on the ice.
The general guidelines for ice safety are:
• Two inches or less: Stay off!.
• Four inches: Ice fishing or other activities on foot.
• Five inches: Snowmobile or ATV.
While true for new, clear solid ice, white ice or “snow ice” may be half as strong and the above thicknesses should at least be doubled.
To check ice safety, calling parks and natural resource agencies may be helpful, but it’s still best to test it yourself.
To punch through, you’ll need an ice chisel or spud bar, ice auger or cordless drill with a long wood boring bit. It’s then a simple matter to use a tape measure to check for thickness.
Have a plan of how to react if you fall through thin ice.
• Winter clothing traps air and provides buoyancy. Don’t remove it.
• Turn toward the direction you came. It’s likely the strongest ice.
• Carry ice rescue picks or sharpened screwdrivers to help pull your way out.
• Once out, roll away from the hole to distribute your weight.
• Get to a warm dry place and consider medical attention for hypothermia.
If you witness someone take an unexpected plunge:
• Preach! Encourage the victim.
• Reach! Reach out from shore or extend an object that can be used to pull them out. Long sticks, rope, jumper cables, ladders and sleds all work.
• Throw! Toss a rope or rescue bag and have them tie it around themselves.
• Go! If the rescue is too risky to perform without putting yourself in danger, get professional help in a hurry.
Along the Way:
Wood fires carry memories of summer campouts, fall bonfires, cozy fireplaces and stirring apple butter in big copper kettles. The “Firewood Poem.” written by Lady Celia Congreve, is believed to have been first published on March 2, 1930, and offers advice for burning wood.
“Beechwood fires are bright and clear
“If the logs are kept a year,
“Chestnut’s only good they say,
“If for logs ’tis laid away.
“Make a fire of Elder tree,
“Death within your house will be;
“But ash new or ash old,
“Is fit for a queen with crown of gold
“Birch and fir logs burn too fast
“Blaze up bright and do not last,
“it is by the Irish said
“Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
“Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
“E’en the very flames are cold
“But ash green or ash brown
“Is fit for a queen with golden crown
“Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
“Fills your eyes and makes you choke,
“Apple wood will scent your room
“Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom
“Oaken logs, if dry and old
“keep away the winter’s cold
“But ash wet or ash dry
“a king shall warm his slippers by.”
Step Outside:
• Today-Tuesday: Statewide muzzleloader deer season.
• Today-tomorrow: Tri-State Gun Collectors Show; Allen County Fairgrounds.
• Tomorrow: Trap Shoot, 1 p.m. Mount Blanchard Gun Club, 21655 Delaware Township 186.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard, OH 45867-0413 or via email at



About the Author