Use Extreme Caution on the Ice as Spring Approaches

Concord, NH – With fluctuating and unpredictable temperatures commonplace throughout the month of March in the Granite State, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department officials urge outdoor enthusiasts to exercise extreme caution when enjoying late-winter activities on or near the ice. Ice anglers are also advised to plan ahead for bobhouse removal; all bobhouses must be removed from waterbodies and private property by April 1, 2023.

“Caution is in order for those going out onto any ice, especially following this winter’s changeable weather,” said NH Fish and Game Colonel Kevin Jordan. “With erratic temperatures, some areas of ice may look safe, but may not be. We are urging people to check the ice thickness before going out onto any frozen waterbody.”

“Because of changeable ice conditions, it is never advisable to drive vehicles onto the ice,” Jordan said. Those on foot should carefully assess ice safety before venturing out by using an ice chisel or auger to determine ice thickness and condition. Continue to do this as you get further out onto the ice because the thickness of the ice will not be uniform over the entire waterbody. Snow-covered ice can be deceiving and should always be inspected carefully.

Though all ice is potentially dangerous, the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research & Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, NH, offers this advice on ice thickness: There should be a minimum of 6 inches of hard ice before individual foot travel, and 8–10 inches of hard ice for snow machine or Off-Highway Recreational Vehicle travel.

Keep in mind that thick ice does not always mean safe ice. It is possible for ice to be thick, but not strong, because of varying weather conditions. Weak ice forms when warming trends break down the ice, then the surface refreezes. Be especially careful of areas with current, such as inlets, outlets, and spring holes, where the ice can be dangerously thin.

Tips for staying safe on the ice include:

  • It is never advisable to drive vehicles onto the ice.
  • Don’t venture onto any ice during thaws.
  • Stay off the ice along the shoreline if it is cracked or squishy. Docks, rocks, and downed trees absorb the sun’s heat and can cause the ice around them to be thin.
  • Watch out for thin, clear, or honeycombed ice. Dark and/or off-colored ice may also indicate weak spots.
  • Small bodies of water tend to freeze thicker. Rivers and lakes are more prone to wind, currents, and wave action that weaken ice.
  • Never gather in large groups on less than 8–10 inches of hard ice.
  • Always bring along a rescue rope, ice picks, and a personal flotation device such as a float coat or life preserver.
  • If you do break through the ice, stay calm. Move or swim back to where you fell in, where you know the ice was solid. Lay both arms on the unbroken ice and kick hard. This will help lift your body onto the ice. A set of ice picks can help you pull yourself out; wear them around your neck or put them in an easily accessible pocket. Once out of the water, roll away from the hole until you reach solid ice.
  • If someone you are with breaks through the ice, don’t rush over to the hole—keep yourself safe. Look for something to throw or to use to reach out to the person such as a rope, tree branch, or ice spud. Lie down flat and reach out with your tool. After securing the person, do not stand—wiggle backwards on the solid ice pulling the person with you.

Ice safety is also very important for snowmobilers. Don’t assume a trail is safe just because it exists; check out trail conditions before you go at

To watch a short video on how to correctly check ice thickness visit

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