Five vital rules that should never be forgotten before starting out on the ice:
1: Always fish with a buddy or group, always. Invite a friend, join in with others or don’t go at all. Solvable problems rapidly become insurmountable without someone there to help.
2: Know the thickness of the ice. The American Pulpwood Association established a table to judge the safety of ice thickness on lakes and streams, which is available on the state Department of Environmental Conservation website. On clear, smooth ice away from water plants, streams or springs and shorelines, the minimum thickness for one person on foot is 3 inches. The DEC website also recommends checking that thickness every five feet as you proceed across the ice.
3: Keep a first-aid kit, wool blankets, change of clothes, water and a fully charged cellphone nearby, or in your vehicle.
4: Have rescue equipment on hand, including a long pole, rope tow line, life jacket and sled. The DEC recommends wearing homemade or purchased icepicks any time you are out on the ice. This simple, life-saving device can be made with an old broomstick, four nails and a length of cord. Cut two 6-inch pieces of the broomstick and hammer a nail into both ends. One one end of each piece, bend the nail to make a loop; on the other end of each piece, cut off only the head of the nail. Tie each end of the cord to the loop ends of both pieces of wood at a length that allows each piece of wood to be held while extending arms out to the side. Thread the device through each arm of your coat for immediately available ice picks that will help you pull yourself out of the water.
5: In an emergency, if someone falls through the ice, the life-saving message that remains after centuries of learning is: do not go in after him. Supply him with a rope, pole or flotation device and help pull him to safety.