Frigid weather prompts ice fishing precautions from DEC

Dec 29, 2017

Frigid temperatures that settled across the region this week are starting to cause lakes and other bodies of water to freeze over. And that means the start of ice fishing. WBFO’s Chris Caya reports on some important tips for anglers.  

Before rushing out onto the ice this winter New York's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is reminding anglers to put safety first. DEC Fisheries Biologist Justin Brewer said as a general rule four inches of clear ice is considered safe for a person on foot.

Ice along Lake Erie in past winters.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

"Some of the braver folks will tell you that two inches is plenty for a human. But if you want to be safe, four inches of clear ice, and then maybe five, if you have a group of people. And if you want to bring a snowmobile out there, I would say, six would be a good minimum. And then going up maybe 8-to-12 for a small vehicle - even more for a pickup truck,” stated Brewer.

Brewer said so far there's only a minimal ice coverage across the area and people should wait at least another week before venturing out.

"I would recommend to any angler, when you get to a lake or a pond or somewhere you want to fish, even if you see somebody out there, check the ice for yourself on the way out,” remarked Brewer.

Brewer said don't assume that others have checked. And once in place check the ice periodically.

“Thickness can vary on the same body of water in different areas,” Brewer noted.

In case there's a problem Brewer tells us he always fishes with friends. And he carries safety gear including a rope, floatation device and an ice pick.   

"And you can hang them around your neck and have them available if something ever were to happen and a person was to fall through they can use those picks to aid in getting out,” advises Brewer.   

Ice along Lake Erie in the past in downtown Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

Being properly dressed for the conditions is also key. And the DEC requires anglers who use live bait to carry a receipt from the shop where it was purchased.

"Almost as a license. So, during the enforcement, if an officer comes to check you for your license, he's going to say, 'do you have your bait receipt?' And you have to provide that,” said Brewer.

And to prevent the spread of harmful fish diseases he says unused or expired bait should be dumped on land not into the water.