Staying Safe on the Northland’s First Ice this Winter

Ice gear and preparation is key to safety.

DULUTH, Minn; SUPERIOR, Wis.- People who love ice fishing have probably already found their go–to spot on the water this year thanks to the Northland’s early freezing temperatures.

But that first ice isn’t always the most reliable to step on.

The DNR’s ice thickness recommendations are as follows:

  • Don’t stand on anything less than 4 inches
  • 5 to 6 inches for an ATV
  • 8 to 12 for a small car
  • 12 to 15 for a medium sized truck

“We never have ice this time of year, so it is pretty safe. However, we’ve just gotta pay attention,” Marine General owner Russ Francisco said.

The Northland’s early ice has gear shops and rescue squads on edge.

“As we heard things were starting to freeze, we expected a buildup and literally overnight we were on the ice. Boom, done,” Francisco said.

Marine General in Duluth is selling Winter recreation equipment and reminding people to buy safety supplies, too.

“So we wear a set of picks, right? So if we go through the ice, we can help ourselves, drag ourselves back through the ice,” Francisco said.

Ice picks, floatation devices and rope are three things you should always take with you.

“People don’t recognize how hard it is to get back up on top of and ice sheet when once they’ve fallen into the water,” Superior Fire Department motor pump operator Bob Zimmerman said.

But having the right gear is just half the battle of staying safe on the ice.

“They’ll have to judge what they can do based on the body of water that they look to recreate on,” Zimmerman said.

Superior fire says environmental factors like heavy wind are indicators that you should avoid getting on the ice.

But if you do find yourself in danger, it’s important to stay calm, get out of the water and get away from gaps in the ice while you wait for emergency response.

“We’re prepared if we need to be, but just keep in mind that regardless of the department you’re dealing with, there would be a response time, so it’s not instantaneous when you fall,” Zimmerman said.

Like with any activity, authorities just want you to think before you act on the ice.

“Just think about it before you even head out on the ice. ‘If I fall through, what would I do to be able to get out?’ just going through that in your head a few of times is going to go a long way in helping you be better prepared,” Zimmerman said.

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