SIMCOE – With cold weather in store for the weekend, ice anglers are gearing up to hit the ice.

Safety is of paramount importance, especially in Southwestern Ontario where ice thickness can change quickly with freeze and thaw cycles.

“Ice fishing can be great family fun, but anglers should check ice thickness before venturing out on the ice,” said Toby Barrett, Haldimand-Norfolk MPP and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. 

“The bays of Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair can provide safe conditions when the weather is cold enough, but anglers should stay off the open lake as it is more prone to changing conditions that result in unsafe ice.”

Barrett also advised anyone venturing out should have a safety plan in place. A part of that plan should be carrying a pair of safety picks, which are essential to pull yourself out if you do go through the ice.

The Ontario Conservation Officers Association (OCOA) also had a safety message and some tips.

Winter fishing is the time of year where many anglers are able to access their favourite fishing spots that are inaccessible during the open water season,” said OCOA President Sean Cronsberry. 

“But anglers need to be sure that ice conditions are safe and they have the equipment with them to deal with an emergency.  By following some simple safety measures, it could save your life, or the life of someone else.”

Check ice thickness and conditions frequently. Clear ice should be a minimum of 10cm (4″) for walking and ice fishing, 12cm (5″) for one snowmobile or ATV, 20-30cm (8-12″) a car or small pickup, 30-38cm (12-15″) for a medium truck (source: Lifesaving Society). 

Fish with a buddy. Be prepared for an emergency – wear ice picks or a floater/survival suit, and have a whistle and cell phone on hand. Let someone know where you will be and when you plan to return. This should include where your vehicle will be parked, what route you plan to take and any stops you plan to make.

Stay off rivers and away from locks, where ice is less stable. Ice conditions in areas of moving water or spring fed lakes can be potentially unsafe at any time, ensure the ice is safe before venturing out.

Anglers are reminded to carry valid fishing, snowmobile and ATV licenses with them at all times.

Anyone with information about a natural resources or public safety related offence is encouraged to call the MNRF violation reporting line at 1-877-847-7667, contact their local Conservation Officer directly, or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

For more information about natural resources regulations and enforcement, please visit the OCOA website at http://www.ocoa.ca or contact your local Conservation Officer.