YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – As we head into the colder months, many lakes will freeze over and people will be participating in winter recreation activities, like ice fishing.

First News headed out to Lake Newport in Mill Creek Park for safety tips on the ice from an expert.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources recommends a minimum thickness of clear new ice of four inches.

It said the most important thing before hitting the ice is preparation.

People are encouraged to invest in safety equipment like ice awls, a tool that has spikes which are driven into the ice to help someone pull themselves out of the water.

Having a cell phone handy is also key so you have a way of calling for help should you need to.

Officer Michael Roeger with ODNR shared ice safety tips.

“You’ve really only got a few minutes of effective movement or preparation to get yourself back out of the water through the ice. If you’re not prepared it can make the difference of serious injuries or death,” Roeger said.

Roeger said to avoid participating in activities like ice fishing or snowmobiling on your own if you’re a novice or beginner.

He suggests going with locals who have experience on the body of water you might be on that day, as they may be aware of some of the known hazards.

It’s important to know how to test the ice for safety.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources tells me there are a couple of ways to check ice thickness.

It recommends a spud bar, which is a large chunk of steel used to hit the ice and gauge the thickness.

It’s also important to be mindful of areas where wildlife, like geese, gather so the ice never really forms well, or forms up much later than the rest of the ice you’re traveling on. In some cases there may be no signs at all that the ice is unsafe, but other times there are.

“There may be some known hazards such as currents around,” Roeger said. “Some bridges or a spring underneath the water that always keeps that one area of the lake thinner ice.”

Fluctuating temperatures can also make for unsafe ice.. When ice thaws and freezes repeatedly, it becomes weak over time and degrades.

According to ODNR, the beginning and end of the winter season are when the organization tends to get a lot of calls about incidents on the ice.

Many people get out on the ice a little too soon when it is still forming, or they try to push the season out later than it should be when the ice is deteriorating and no longer safe.