The Bulletin Board

NH Fish and Game urges people to assess ice safety before venturing out

By: - February 17, 2023 3:20 pm

The ice at White Park in Concord is clearly not safe – and is marked as such. But when ice thickness is unknown, an assessment is necessary. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)

Because of this winter’s unpredictable and fluctuating temperatures, New Hampshire Fish and Game officials are urging people to exercise caution when near ice. 

“With erratic weather conditions, some areas of ice may look safe, but may not be,” Col. Kevin Jordan, chief of Fish and Game’s Law Enforcement Division, said in a statement. “As always, we are urging people to check the ice thickness before going out onto any frozen waterbody.”

Ice conditions are becoming less safe as New Hampshire winters trend warmer and temperatures more variable. 

Fish and Game officials encourage people on foot to carefully assess ice safety before venturing out, by using an ice chisel or auger to determine ice thickness and composition. Officials caution that thickness is not uniform over an entire body of water, and snow-covered ice can be deceiving.

There should be a minimum of 6 inches of hard ice before foot use and 8 to 10 inches for snow machines or off-highway recreational vehicles, according to the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover.

New Hampshire Fish and Game offers the following safety tips:

  • Don’t venture onto ice during thaws.
  • Stay off the ice along the shoreline if it is cracked or squishy.
  • 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.
  • Never gather in groups on less than 8 to 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. Look for something to use to reach out to the person, such as a rope, tree branch, or ice spud (ice fishing tool). Lie down flat and reach out with the object. After securing the person, do not stand; wiggle backward on the solid ice, pulling the person with you.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Hadley Barndollar
Hadley Barndollar

Hadley Barndollar covers climate, energy, environment, and the opioid crisis for the New Hampshire Bulletin. Previously, she was the New England regional reporter for the USA TODAY Network and was named Reporter of the Year by the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Email: [email protected]