Know Before You Go: How To Determine Whether The Ice Is Safe To Play On
There are many things folks from Maine know to do in the wintertime; bundle up in cold weather, pack some extra stuff in your vehicle in case you break down in a storm, drive slow in the snow.
Another thing most Mainers know (but it's always good to remind ourselves of this) is to check ice conditions before going on any river, lake, or pond in the wintertime.
Checking the ice can mean the difference between a fun day on the frozen water vs. a dangerous day at a local hospital. Or even worse, as was the case earlier this weekend when a Maine ice fisherman went through the ice with his snowmobile, death.
Lucky for us, there's a nifty little infographic that Weather.gov came up with to remind you of just how much each layer of thickness of the ice can support.
As you can see, for simple things like ice fishing and skating, there only needs to be about 5-6" of ice built up. But that number doubles as you start to want to bring heavier things like snowmobiles and trucks out onto it.
One of the best ways to stay up to date with the ice conditions in any certain area is to check with the locals. They are usually keeping an eye on those things, and can give you accurate measurements.
According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, if you are going to check the ice yourself, here's what to remember:
"Before stepping out, use a chisel or auger to test ice thickness in several places. Remember that ice seldom freezes uniformly and conditions are always changing and can vary from one location to the next. Ice that forms overflowing water and currents, especially near streams, bridges and culverts, can be particularly dangerous."
According to Maine.gov, there are certain conditions to look out for that aid in the freezing process of most bodies of water in Maine.
"Before a lake can freeze over, its entire water column from top to bottom must reach that magic temperature (39.2 F or 4 C)... Small ponds tend to ice over earlier in the winter than deep lakes, because there is less water to cool. Some very deep lakes never freeze because the entire depth of the lake does not cool down to the magic temperature. Most Maine lakes are shallow enough and winter is long and cold enough so that they freeze over."
The other thing most experts recommend is if you do plan to spend time on the ice in Maine, let someone know where you'll be, and when you expect to return.
Stay safe out there.