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Use Caution on the Ice

Col. Kevin Jordan: (603) 271-3128
Major James Juneau: (603) 271-3128
Becky Johnson: (603) 271-3211

December 26, 2017

CONCORD, N.H. -- New Hampshire Fish and Game Department officials urge outdoor enthusiasts to exercise caution when enjoying winter activities near the ice.


"Caution is in order for those going out onto the ice, especially early in the winter," said Fish and Game Col. Kevin Jordan. "With uneven temperatures, some areas may look safe, but don’t count on it. We are urging people to check the ice thickness before you go out onto any frozen waterbody."


Because of the unpredictable ice conditions, it is not 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 on to the ice, because the thickness of the ice will not be uniform all over the waterbody.


Though all ice is potentially dangerous, the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research & Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H., offers a "rule of thumb" on ice thickness: There should be a minimum of six inches of hard ice before individual foot travel, and eight to ten inches of hard ice for snow machine or All-Terrain 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 is formed when warming trends break down ice, then the slushy surface re-freezes. 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:


  • Stay off the ice along the shoreline if it is cracked or squishy. Don’t go on the ice during thaws.
  • Watch out for thin, clear or honeycombed ice. Dark snow and 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.
  • Don’t gather in large groups or drive large vehicles onto the ice.
  • If you do break through the ice, don’t panic. 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 if you do fall through the ice; 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.


Ice safety is also very important for snowmobilers. Don't assume a trail is safe just because it exists; ask about trail conditions at local snowmobile clubs or sporting goods shops before you go.


To download a brochure from Fish and Game called "Safety on Ice - Tips for Anglers," visit

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