Northern fire officials emphasize safety in ice fishing season

January 8, 2024

As the ice fishing season gains momentum, Northern fire officials are emphasizing the importance of safety.

With dozens of ice shacks already dotting Callander Bay, the urgency of this message is clear.

Safety reminders from fire officials

North Bay Fire Chief Jason Whiteley has been vocal in reminding anglers about the importance of checking ice thickness.

Whiteley stressed: “They should really know the ice that they’re going on.”

He noted that while smaller back lakes are freezing well, larger lakes like Lake Nipissing and Trout Lake have many areas that are still open water.

The fire department advises checking the ice’s color and measuring its thickness as a precaution.

Variability in ice strength

The nature of ice formation means its thickness is never uniform.

Dangerous areas often occur near river mouths, underwater springs, beaver dams, and dark, rocky shorelines.

According to Whiteley, factors like wind and current can significantly impact ice formation.

Clear blue ice is generally the strongest type, whereas white, honeycombed ice is much weaker.

Caution advised by local businesses

Samantha Simpkin, the owner of Fish Bay Marina, has postponed renting out her 16 huts until mid-January due to safety concerns.

She commented, “There’s still open water on the lake, which is where we need to go.”

She highlighted the need for consistently cold temperatures to ensure ice safety.

Ice thickness guidelines

Guidelines for ice thickness are clear: stay off if the ice is three inches thick or less.

Four inches of ice supports activities like skating or ice fishing, while five to six inches is needed for ATVs.

For larger vehicles, a minimum of 12 inches is necessary.

Additional safety measures

Fire officials are also reminding anglers about the importance of having smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in their shacks.

Whiteley recalled past tragedies, emphasizing: “If you’re using a wood-burning fireplace or propane heater or even an electric generator, have a carbon monoxide alarm.”

FSJA Comment

The emphasis on safety during the ice fishing season by Northern fire officials reflects a proactive approach to preventing accidents and tragedies.

The detailed guidance on ice thickness, coupled with the advice from local businesses, demonstrates a community-wide commitment to ensuring the well-being of anglers and outdoor enthusiasts.

This focus on safety serves as an educational opportunity for those new to ice fishing, highlighting the variable and often unpredictable nature of ice conditions.

As winter sports and activities gain popularity, such initiatives become increasingly important in fostering a culture of safety and awareness.

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