RHINELANDER, Wis (WXPR) -- Intrepid ice fishermen are already hitting newly frozen lakes. But unstable conditions can make it dangerous.
Antigo DNR Recreational safety warden Jeff Dauterman says ice thickness can vary even within the same lake.and visual checks are not reliable. "You got ice out there, once there's some snow on it you don't know if it's one inch thick or two feet thick. It can vary that much within a single lake. So you've always got to remain cautious."
Dauterman says drilling holes as you proceed along the ice is the best way to check its thickness. He says bait shops can be a good source of local knowledge for new fishermen..and can warn where the ice is most likely to be thin. But that's no substitute for being prepared. "Quite honestly I think people venturing out on the ice should plan that they're going to fall through. And have a plan in mind. Go out with another person. Make sure you've got ice creepers, make sure you've got some ice spikes in your pocket so you can pull yourself out." Dauterman urges people to wear a life jacket.
The DNR has more tips for ice safety on its website: http://dnr.wi.gov/ and http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/icefishing/icefishsafety.html