keep off melting ice on ponds and waterways

Fish and Wildlife Enforcement cautions public
to keep off melting ice on ponds, waterways


DOVER (Feb. 3, 2014) – DNREC Natural Resources Police, Division of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Section, urges the public to use extreme caution if considering walking on ice, ice fishing, skating or taking any type of vehicle onto seemingly-solid ice formed by the recent extreme cold over many Delaware ponds, lakes and smaller waterways.

“Although the ice on your local pond may still look solid, recent above-freezing temperatures and rain in some areas have softened and weakened it, making it potentially unsafe to bear weight,” said Sgt. Gregory Rhodes of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement. “A mishap on ice can instantly become a life-threatening situation. Falling through ice into cold water can lead to hypothermia and death in minutes. When in doubt, it’s best to stay off the ice.”

Should Delaware see more extreme cold that refreezes ponds, lakes and other waterways, Enforcement encourages those considering walking, ice fishing or skating on frozen waters to follow these tips:

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  • Avoid walking, ice fishing, skating or other activities on ice in tidal waters. Due to the rise and fall of tidal waters, surface ice formed on these waters is unstable and unsuitable for weight-bearing activities.
  • Exercise extreme caution when venturing out onto freshwater ice, and always take a buddy who could provide or summon help in an emergency situation.
  • Before venturing off the shoreline, examine freshwater ice carefully to determine its thickness and uniformity.
  • For walking, freshwater ice should be a minimum of 2 to 3 inches thick, clear and sound, with no thin spots caused by springs or currents.
  • For ice fishing, freshwater ice should be at least 4 inches thick.
  • Be wary of snow on the ice, which can hide weak spots. 

Driving ATVs, snowmobiles or passenger vehicles on all ice is strongly discouraged. “To support the weight of a vehicle, ice must be at least 7 to 10 inches thick,” said Sgt. Rhodes. “Without an extended period of extreme cold, ice is unlikely to reach this thickness in Delaware.”

Anyone who witnesses someone falling through ice should immediately call 911, Sgt. Rhodes added. “And if you see anyone out on potentially unsafe ice – especially children – please report it to your local authorities or call Fish and Wildlife Enforcement at 302-739-4580, before something happens,” he said.

The DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife recognizes and thanks the majority of anglers, hunters and boaters who comply with and support Delaware’s fishing, hunting and boating laws and regulations. Citizens are encouraged to report fish and wildlife and boating violations to the Delaware Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Section by calling 302-739-4580. Wildlife violations may also be reported anonymously by calling 800-292-3030 or online at Operation Game Theft.

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