Safety tips for anglers looking to try their hand at ice fishing

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The constant cold weather is here, and with that comes the ice fishing.

There are many options for ice fishing in Livingston County, including Lakes Kensington, Chemung, and Whitmore.

Once the lakes begin to freeze, fishermen and their shacks begin to appear on the lakes, Michigan DNR Sgt. said Jason Smith.

“There are people out there right now,” he said. “Once people see that there are a few inches, they’ll start venturing out because they’re itchy.”

Anglers will be on the ice any time of the day, even at 2 a.m., he said.

Ice fishing requires a fishing license, which can be purchased from the state.

Ice safety

There is no “safe ice,” Smith said.

“There’s no feeler gauge or anything like that,” he said. “The ice is very unpredictable. It can be very strong, then a few meters away it can be bad.”

There are precautions those who go ice fishing can take before venturing out on the lake.

Smith recommends anglers use the buddy system and if you are fishing alone be sure to let friends or family know where they are. Ice fishermen can also check the thickness of the ice using a spud, auger, or needle bar.

Each year, MNR and local emergency personnel respond to anglers crossing the ice.

“It’s not common, but it’s not uncommon,” Smith said.

The Livingston County Dive Team responds to an average of two ice fishing accidents per year, depending on conditions, Livingston County Sheriff Michael Murphy said.

A lone ice hut stands near the boat launch at Lake Appleton in the Lake Brighton recreation area in the canton of Hamburg on Thursday, January 13, 2022.

Here are some safety tips the state recommends anglers follow:

  • You can test the thickness and quality of the ice using a spud, needle bar or auger.
  • Strongest ice: clear with a bluish tint.
  • Weak ice: ice formed by melted and re-frozen snow. Appears milky.
  • Stay off the ice with slush on top. Slush is only half the strength of clear ice and indicates that the ice is not freezing from the bottom.
  • If there is ice on the lake but water around the shore, be extra careful.
  • The stronger the current on the lake, the more the ice is likely to give way to open water.
  • Avoid areas of ice with protruding debris like logs or brush.
  • Keep an eye out for bubblers or dock de-icers, as ice near these mechanisms will be dangerous. Always check the ice and be aware of your surroundings.
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