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As the ice fishing season winds down across many parts of the Commonwealth, The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) reminds anglers to use caution when venturing out onto frozen lakes and ponds.
“While temperatures may remain cold enough in many places to produce new ice, these late season conditions can be among the most dangerous,” said Ryan Walt, PFBC’s Boating and Watercraft Safety Manager. “The freeze-thaw cycle that we will be experiencing over the next few weeks can result in many layers of ice forming on top of each other and various ice thicknesses that can be deceiving.”
In early March, the angle of the sun and its impact on ice has changed dramatically since December, when ice began forming on many water bodies. Extended days of sun exposure and more frequent variations in temperature can lead to accelerated deterioration of ice.
Should someone fall through the ice, even brief exposure to cold water can result in hypothermia or even death. Cold water shock can occur when water temperatures are less than 70 degrees F, often resulting in an involuntary gasp and the swallowing of water. Associated hyperventilation, breathlessness and a reduced ability to control breathing will limit the ability for a person to swim and can lead to unconsciousness.
Anglers and anyone else walking out onto the ice are reminded that ice conditions are not officially monitored by any authority and there is no such thing as “safe ice.”
The PFBC urges anglers and anyone venturing out on to the ice to follow these safety steps:
· Always wear a lifejacket or float coat while on the ice. Avoid inflatable lifejackets, which do not perform well in freezing temperatures.
· When arriving at the water’s edge, visually survey the ice. Look for open water areas and signs of recent changes in water levels. Ice sloping down from the bank can indicate a recent drop in water level, while wet areas on the ice can indicate a rise in water level.
· Listen for loud cracks or booms coming from the ice. This can be an indicator of deteriorating ice.
· Look for new ice, which is clear or has a blue tint. New ice is stronger than old ice, which can appear white or gray.
· Remember that ice thickness is not consistent across the surface of the lake or pond.
· Beware of ice around partially submerged objects such as trees, brush, embankments or structures. Ice will not form as quickly where water is shallow or where objects may absorb heat from sunlight.
· Anglers should use an ice staff to probe ahead as they walk. If the ice staff punches through, retreat to shore slowly.
· Always carry a pair of ice awls, which are handheld spikes. Ice awls can assist in performing a self-rescue, in which the spikes are driven into the ice to help someone pull themselves out of the water.
· Never walk on ice that has formed over moving water such as a river or stream.
· Never go out on ice alone.
· Always let someone know your plans and when you expect to return