Every winter, thousands of Hoosiers safely enjoy fishing, skating, hiking, or just sliding around on frozen ponds and lakes. And every year, people drown after falling through ice.

Don’t let this happen to you or anyone around you.

Indiana Conservation Officers remind Hoosiers to be careful as they begin to partake in activities such as ice fishing, ice skating, or snowmobiling. Remember to put safety first. Take caution when going on frozen lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and retention ponds. And watch for others who may venture out on frozen waterways and find themselves in trouble.

Like needing to drive differently on snowy versus clear roads, safely having fun on ice may require you to adjust from what you have done in the past. The rule of thumb is to believe all ice is thin ice unless proven otherwise.

Here are a few tips to remember when considering standing on or walking on a frozen body of water:

  • Assume no ice is safe ice.
  • Test the thickness of the ice with an ice auger. At least 4 inches is recommended for ice fishing; 5 inches is recommended for snowmobiling.
  • If you don’t know the thickness of the ice, don’t go on it.
  • Wear a life jacket or flotation coat.
  • Carry ice picks and rope gear.
  • Before going on the ice, leave a note of your whereabouts with a friend or family member.
  • Don’t test the thickness of the ice while alone.

Wearing a life jacket is especially important when on ice. If you fall through, a life jacket will keep your head above the water until help arrives.

Remember that a new coating of snow, while perhaps beautiful, can make for treacherous ice conditions. Snow can serve as insulation, causing water to freeze at a slower rate. When snow and rain freeze into ice, it is not as strong as solid, clear ice.

Another potentially dangerous situation is when you see a pet or other animal in distress on the ice. If that happens, do not go after it. Instead, contact local emergency response personnel, who are equipped to make a rescue.

A few more tips:

  • Some bodies of water can appear to be frozen solid but still have thin ice in several unexpected areas.
  • Avoid flowing water, such as rivers and streams, when covered by a layer of ice.
  • Similarly, water surrounded by sand may freeze with inconsistencies in the thickness of the ice.
  • Underground springs, wind, waterfowl, and other animals can also keep areas of ice thin.

Enjoy the winter weather but make safety a priority.