ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A close call on the Rock River highlights the importance of ice safety. We spoke with a local outdoors expert on avoiding a major breakthrough. He tells us to always be prepared.
A lot of the work you should do to keep yourself safe happens before you ever set foot on the ice.
“If you’re going to go out, especially ice fishing is popular this time of year, you need to check the thickness of the ice,” said Illinois Conservation Police Sgt. Phil Wire.
According to Sgt. Wire, every fisherman should know that ice less than two inches thick isn’t safe to walk on. While ice thicker than four inches is ideal, he says it’s important to check the ice frequently–especially if you’re on a body of water with a current like the Rock River.
“Even if you’ve got four inches in one spot, doesn’t mean you’ve got four inches of ice in another spot,” he said.
If you’re planning on venturing out onto the ice, you should bring safety equipment with you in addition to your normal tacklebox and pole.
“I recommend that you wear a life jacket and if you’re going out with a group of individuals, bring a flotation device at least, a flotation device and a rope. That way, if they go through, you don’t want to go out there and get them, you can just throw the flotation device to them and pull them back in with the rope,” said Sgt. Wire.
Falling through the ice could send your body into shock. Wire says the first step to saving yourself is to not panic and control your breathing. Once you’re calm, you will have a better chance of getting out of the water.
“You want to try to get out the same spot you went in, and you need to kick your feet up to the surface of the water kind of like you’re swimming in order to crawl yourself out,” Wire added.
He also recommended that all winter fishing enthusiasts invest in a pair of ice picks.
“That way if you’re put in that situation, it’s easier to get out of the water as well with ice picks. Just keep them in your pocket or keep them in the sleeve of your jacket.”