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Safe Ice? No Such Thing And This Season Is Unusual

Wisconsin DNR

The weather was colder than normal in November, then a thick blanket of snow enveloped the Northwoods in the past week. While that might make you think we have solid ice conditions on area lakes, a DNR recreation warden has a word of caution.

Warden Justin Bender of Woodruff says the question each year with early ice is how safe is it? He says being on the ice is never 100 percent safe..

"...There's areas that aren't frozen yet, the swamp areas or some of the wetlands. The conditions this year, you can't really judge anything strictly on appearance or thickness. Because we've had so much snow just recently, that's going to change the way that ice forms as opposed to being really cold to make good ice and then having it snow so that definitely is going to affect things..."

Bender says the DNR doesn't actively monitor ice conditions, but says local bait shops and resorts do....

"I'd try to stay away from areas you're unfamiliar with or stay away from anything that has moving water, whether it's an inlet, a channel or something like that..."

Bender says among safety tips: Don't go alone. Take a cell phone if available, and make sure someone knows where you are and when you are expected to return. Don't travel at night or during reduced visibility. Look for clear ice, which is generally stronger than ice with snow on it or bubbles in it.

He says carry some basic safety gear: ice claws or picks, a life jacket and a length of rope.

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