Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks encourages ice anglers and others recreating on ice to use caution. Ice conditions are variable across the state.

“Ice fishing has been an excellent winter family activity in Montana for generations,” said FWP Helena Area Fisheries Biologist Adam Strainer. “However, safety should always be the first priority when preparing for an ice fishing adventure at your favorite ‘hardwater’ destination.”

The safest ice anglers are those who pay as much attention to the changing conditions of the ice as they do to the fishing conditions. This week is a perfect example, with temperatures fluctuating from below freezing to the mid-40s.

When on the ice, remember:

•If you have even the slightest doubt about the safety off the ice, stay off it.

•Blue ice is usually hard. Watch out for opaque, gray, dark or porous spots in the ice that could be weak, soft areas. Ice also tends to thin more quickly at the shorelines.

•Watch for pressure ridges. These are areas of open water or thin ice where the ice has cracked and heaved due to expansion from freezing.

•Test the ice ahead of you with an ice spud bar or an auger.

•Don’t leave children unsupervised on the ice.

•Lakes and ponds do not freeze at the same thickness all over.

•Moving water - rivers, streams and springs - weaken ice by wearing it away from underneath. Avoid ice on rivers and streams, or where a river or stream enters a lake, pond or reservoir.

The following are MINIMUMS needed with ice thickness:

•4 inches: 1 person with gear

•5 inches: small group spread out

•6 inches: snowmobile or ATV

•9 inches: small automobile (not recommended, but if you must, proceed at your own risk!)

•12 inches: pickup truck or SUV (again, not recommended)

Some other common ice-safety reminders to keep in mind:

•Dress warm and waterproof to help prevent frostbite and hypothermia.

•Consider changes in the weather (and ice conditions) during the prior 24 hours.

•It’s OK to wear a life jacket (PFD) or carry a throwable flotation device while out on the ice - safe ice anglers do it all the time.

•Before leave home, tell someone where you plan to fish and when you plan to return.

•Carry a pair of ice picks (long spikes on a heavy string around your neck). If you break through the ice, you can use the spikes to grip the ice and pull yourself out of the water.

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