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January 22, 2021
A homemade pair of necklace hand spikes which can give you a grip on the ice to help pull yourself out. All photos by Kate Sulentic.
So far it has been a mild winter, keeping our midseason pond ice marginal for ice fishing and other topside activities. Some thoughts regarding ice safety on ponds:
The usual rule is to wait for at least four inches of clear hard ice to form, and needing more if it is bubbly or soft.
Keep your distance from each other, not because of Covid, but to spread your weight over larger area.
Stay away from overflow pipes, often located near the center of a dam. Water flowing toward them can thin the ice there on the underside.
Note the ice has been eroded where the dark area is visible on edge of pond.
Water tables are high this winter. Flow of little springs and seeps up into shallow bays can erode the ice from below in those locations.
Stay away from any logs imbedded in the ice. Their dark color makes them solar collectors on sunny days which can thin the ice around them.
Have some sort of rescue plan in mind, just in case. This might include a cell phone to call 911, a necklace pair of hand spikes, or a prepared rope for example. Within the last couple of years, ice fishing pants have become available in bib-style, which are air-filled and buoyant enough to float you. Or simply wear a personal flotation device or PFD.
Go with another person or a group.
Forego happy hour until you are safe back home.
Non-professional rescue is fraught with difficulty. The victim may go into shock so quickly that they cannot help themselves. Or the would-be rescuer might also break through. A large person wearing soggy clothing may prove impossible to pull out, even with a lasso below their arms, in part because people on the other end of the rope cannot get traction on the ice. A long rope that can reach shore might help.
There is no substitute for avoiding the crisis of falling through the ice.
A clip-on six ounce fishing sinker can provide enough weight to throw a light rope about 30 feet. A large lasso type loop can be made as needed by pulling some rope through a smaller loop in the end of the rope. Rope can be kept from tangling by coiling it carefully inside a five gallon bucket with a little traffic cone in the bottom.
This old guy's favorite large-scale conservation projects include integrating soils, water, plants, and animals, especially native species. I still bike through my South Sycamore stormwater management system from 2001.