The temperature has been below freezing pretty steadily over the past couple of weeks, leaving a nice layer of ice over many bodies of water in the Kankakee Valley. Conservation officer Keith Wildeman said the wintery conditions have given rise to ice fishing in the area, and he said it’s important that anyone venturing out on the ice be prepared and cautious.
Wildeman said the most important safety tip is to be wary of the ice and ensure there is at least four inches before heading out on the water.
“Number one, we want to remind people that if you venture out on the ice, we always tell people that no ice is safe ice, and the recommendation is that before you venture out on the ice, always make sure you have at least four inches of good, clear ice that will support the weight of a person, and at least six inches or more that will support the weight of an ATV or snowmobile,” Wildeman said.
Wildeman said it’s never a good idea to go out on the ice alone. Bring a friend and tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back in case something happens. He said you should ensure you have the proper safety equipment such as a flotation device in case the ice gives out, a throw-bag or rope in case your companion falls in, and plenty of warm layers.
He said it’s also wise to bring ice picks in case you fall in the water.
“In the event that you do fall in, try to remain as calm as possible. Use the picks to help pull yourself up onto the ice; stay low, and while you’re pulling, kick hard with your feet and then roll out onto the harder ice and roll away from the hole and crawl until you get to thicker ice and you can stand up. Then immediately get into an area where you can get warm because hypothermia can set in very quickly in these cold temperatures,” Wildeman explained.
Wildeman said it’s important to keep checking the thickness of the ice as you head farther away from shore, as the thickness of the ice can change.
In order to fish, Wildeman said anyone over the age of 18 requires a fishing license to fish on public waterways. Check bag and size limits before venturing out, and know the number of fishing poles you’re allowed. For more information, visit http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/3601.htm.