YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Wednesday marks the first day of winter. And as the weather turns colder, many are waiting to get outside for ice fishing or ice skating. But how do you know if the ice is thick enough to head out?

The Ohio Department of Natural resources says no matter how thick the ice, there’s no such thing as a 100 percent safe surface.

ODNR doesn’t keep track of ice thickness for major bodies of water across the Buckeye state. They say the best to check is to talk with local bait shops to find out if other anglers have been out. You can also measure the ice yourself with a cordless drill, ice auger or tape measure. ICE THICKNESS GUIDELINES

“Personally for me, I want it to be at least four inches thick. A lot of guys will go out with two inches thick, but it’s not worth it,” said Ed Falatic, sales representative for Gander Mountain.

ODNR says four inches of ice is the minimum to walk on and should be measured every 150 yards, but safety is not guaranteed. They say clear ice is better than cloudy and it’s likely more stable due to the way it forms.

Bait shops can also be a good source of information about thin spots in the ice to avoid and other ice conditions.

Falatic said some of the mistakes he sees first-time fishermen make is not taking any safety gear out and not dressing for the weather. He suggest wearing a life jacket under your clothes and keeping ice safety picks close by at all times.

“The wind chill on ice is probably twice what it is on land because you’re getting that coolness coming of the ice so underdressed is bad,” Falatic said.

Safety Tips:

  • Must have a valid fishing license
  • Fish with a partner or in an area with several other anglers present
  • Let others know exactly where you are going and when you plan to return
  • Sprinkle sand around your feet for better traction on the ice

What to do if ice begins to crack beneath you:

  • Don’t run.
  • Lie on your stomach and spread your arms and legs.
  • Stretch your arms over your head and bring them together.
  • Roll away from the crack. Do not bend your knees or elbows.