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The North Dakota Game and Fish Department urges winter anglers to use extreme caution when venturing on the ice.

Jackie Lundstrom, operations supervisor for the enforcement division, said ice conditions are some of the worst she has seen for this time of the year.

“Especially thickness varying over a short distance,” she said. “Ice thickness is never consistent and can vary significantly on the same body of water.”

And now with the recent snowfall, Lundstrom said it can be difficult to find cracks and weak ice.

“Snow insulates ice, which inhibits solid ice formation,” she added. “With warmer temperatures in the forecast, a layer of crust could build which wouldn’t allow the snow to blow clear.”

A few reminders include:

•Edges firm up faster than farther out from shore.

•Avoid cracks, pressure ridges, slushy or darker areas that signal thinner ice. The same goes for ice that forms around partially submerged trees, brush, embankments or other structures.

•Ice thickness is not consistent and can vary significantly even in a small area. Ice shouldn’t be judged by appearance alone. Anglers should drill test holes as they make their way out on the lake, and an ice chisel should be used to check ice thickness while moving around.

•Daily temperature changes cause ice to expand and contract, affecting its strength.

•The following minimums are recommended for travel on clear-blue lake ice formed under ideal conditions. However, early in the winter it’s a good idea to double these figures to be safe: 4 inches for a group walking single file; 6 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle; 8-12 inches for an automobile; and 12-15 inches for a pickup/truck.

These tips could help save a life:

•Wear a personal flotation device and carry a cell phone.

•Carry ice picks or a set of screwdrivers to pull yourself back on the ice if you fall through.

•If someone breaks through the ice, call 911 immediately. Rescue attempts should employ a long pole, board, rope, blanket or snowmobile suit. If that’s not possible, throw the victim a life jacket, empty water jug or other buoyant object. Go to the victim as a last resort, but do this by forming a human chain where rescuers lie on the ice with each person holding the feet of the person in front.

•To treat hypothermia, replace wet clothing with dry clothing and immediately transport victim to a hospital.

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