Published DateCONCORD — New Hampshire Fish and Game Department officials warn that this winter's uneven temperatures and high winds have affected ice formation, particularly on the state's larger lakes. The agency is urging those heading out onto the ice to exercise caution as they do so. A large number of anglers are expected to head out onto the state's lakes and ponds this weekend to participate in the annual Meredith Great Rotary Ice Fishing Derby.
A recent aerial survey of Lake Winnipesaukee by the N.H. Civil Air Patrol revealed treacherous ice conditions on some parts of the big lake, including an area of open water near Welch Island.
"Caution is in order for those going out onto the ice, especially on the large lakes," said Fish and Game Lt. James Goss. "Don't let the cold temperatures fool you — some areas that have traditionally been safe for ice anglers and other outdoor recreationists are not safe this year. We are urging people to check the ice thickness for yourself before you go out onto any frozen waterbody."
Because of the unpredictable ice conditions, it is not advisable to drive vehicles onto the ice, Goss 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 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.
To download a brochure from Fish and Game called "Safety on Ice - Tips for Anglers," visit http://www.wildnh.com/Outdoor_Recreation/ice_safety.html.