Chague Gene | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Ice fishing, winter hiking and snowshoeing can be fun, but stay safe | Sports
MassWildlife advises us to stay safe this winter by taking a few moments to review these ice safety tips:
New ice is stronger than old ice. Four inches of clear, newly formed ice can support a person on foot, while a foot or more of partially thawed old ice may not.
Ice does not freeze evenly. Continue to check ice conditions frequently when venturing out on the ice.
Ice formed on flowing water and currents is often more dangerous. Avoid traveling on frozen rivers and streams, as currents make ice thickness unpredictable. Many lakes and ponds can contain spring holes and other areas of currents that can create deceptively dangerous thin spots.
Before heading out on the ice, let someone know your plans, including where you’re going and when you expect to return.
Carry a cell phone in case of emergency.
Take ice picks and a rope with you on the ice. In an emergency, drive the nails into the ice and get to safety while kicking.
Wear your life jacket. If you fall in, a life jacket will keep you afloat and can insulate you from the effects of cold water.
The following ice thickness guidelines apply to clear and blue ice on lakes and ponds. White ice or snow ice is only about half the strength of new clear ice and can be very dangerous. Use an ice chisel, auger or cordless drill to make a hole in the ice and determine its thickness and condition. Bring a tape measure to check the thickness of the ice at regular intervals.
If the ice thickness is 2 inches or less, stay away; 4 inches is generally safe for ice fishing; 5 inches safe for snowmobile or ATV; 8-12 inches ok for a car or small van and 12-15 inches should be safe for a medium truck.
If you fall into:
Don’t panic: Call for help if there are people nearby.
Don’t take off your winter clothes: air trapped in your clothes can provide warmth and help you float.
Turn in the direction you came from: The ice you walked on previously should be the safest.
Place your hands and arms on an unbroken surface and kick your legs: If you have ice picks or a pair of nails, use them to pull yourself up onto the ice while kicking.
Lie flat and roll: Once your torso is on firm ice, roll to thicker ice to distribute your weight.
Find shelter and get warm: change your wet clothes and find warm, dry blankets. If you are in a remote area, go or light a campfire. Otherwise, head for a car or a house. Seek medical advice from your doctor.
If someone else falls into it, remember the phrase “Preach-Reach-Throw-Go”.
Preach: Call 911 if you can. Shout to the victim to reassure them that help is on the way.
Reach: If you can reach them safely from the shore, stretch an object like a rope, jumper cables, a tree branch, or a ladder towards them.
Throwing: Throwing one end of a rope or something that will float to the victim.
Go: If the situation is too dangerous for you to perform a rescue, call 911 or go get help. Untrained rescuers can become victims themselves.
If an animal falls into:
Do not try to save the animal, go get help. Well-meaning pet owners can easily become victims themselves when trying to help their pets. Remember to always keep pets on a leash when walking on or near ice.
Now, as for winter snowshoeing or hiking.
The NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has provided safety and education tips that we can all benefit from.
A well-stocked emergency kit will help you manage whatever circumstances the outside throws at you. Include the following items in your emergency kit:
A whistle will help you attract the attention of nearby hikers or rescuers.
A signal mirror can reflect sunlight back to the rescue plane, showing your position if you get lost.
Brightly colored clothing makes it easier for rescuers to spot you. If you have to leave the trail for any reason, tying a cloth to a tree at the edge of the trail can help you get back safely.
Tape is handy for securing gear or making quick shelters.
A pocket knife or multitool can serve many purposes, both in an emergency and in general.
A space blanket provides warmth and protection from the elements and can be used to craft an emergency shelter.
An emergency shelter is also good to have on backcountry trips. It could be a tent or just a tarp and rope.
Ice fishing competition
New York ice anglers, know that the Chatham Lions Club Ice Fishing Tournament is scheduled for Saturday, February 5 from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Queechy Lake in Canaan. Cash prizes for first, second and third place, four categories of fish, $1,000 in raffle equipment and a 50/50 raffle, entry fee: $15 for adults, $5 for children from 15 and under. To pre-register, send registration fee to Chatham Lions Club, PO Box 216, Chatham, NY 12037. For more information, contact Al Meier at 518-755-0330.
Massachusetts residents interested in participating in this derby should remember to purchase their 2022 New York non-resident fishing licenses.
Creel surveys on Lake Champlain to be carried out
Remaining ice fishing in New York for some time, NYDEC has announced that ice fishing surveys will be conducted for a second year in the New York waters of Lake Champlain from January to March 2022.
“Last year’s ice fishing surveys provided valuable data that will help the DEC continue to manage Lake Champlain as one of New York’s premier fishing destinations,” said DEC Commissioner Seggos. . “Continuing this work this year will help us better understand what anglers are targeting and catching so that we can evaluate and adjust our management practices as needed.”
The ice fishing survey is part of a larger two-year effort to survey ice and open water anglers. The data collected during these surveys will serve as a reference to help CED Fisheries biologists better understand the use and expectations of anglers, while informing management actions on Lake Champlain.
The 2022 ice fishing survey will take place at four access points: the Plattsburgh boat launch in Cumberland Sound; Willsboro Bay boat launch; Bulwagga Bay Campground; and South Bay boat launch. Anglers coming off the ice will be invited to participate by sharing information about their fishing day and providing DEC creel clerks with data such as target species, number of catches and size.
This information will help DEC develop management practices for Lake Champlain that benefit anglers and fisheries. As an incentive to participate, anglers will be entered into a raffle for several prizes of ice fishing gear, including a jet sled, fishing rod, refillable aerator and insulated bait bucket.
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Banquet
The Bay State Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will host a banquet Feb. 12 at 5 p.m. at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club, 24 West Stockbridge Road, Stockbridge. There are a dozen entry fee scenarios, but a single ticket costs $90 or a couple ticket costs $140. There will be great food and chances to win top notch guns, premium travel, and exclusive gear. Space and tickets are limited and you can reserve your tickets by registering online (www.rmef.org/Masssachusetts) or by calling Gary Johnston at 413-441-0361. You might want to check Friday to make sure it hasn’t been canceled due to COVID-19.
Annual Pheasant Fundraiser / Turkey Shoot and Dinner
The Lee Sportsmen’s Association (LSA) is tentatively hosting its annual Pheasant Turkey Fundraising Dinner on Sunday February 6th. The turkey shooting session will take place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner is from 5 to 7 p.m. Cost for adults is $15 and for children 12 and under $7.
Each year, MassWildlife stocks an average of 40,000 pheasants in wildlife management areas and other lands open to the public. LSA helps to lift them up and set them free. They are stocked for recreational hunting and are paid for by license fee revenue; however, the cost of raising them is borne by LSA, and the keepers are all club volunteers.