How to know if ice is safe to walk on

LANSING, MI (WLNS) – About 60 miles east of Lansing, a man and his son drowned in Oakland County after falling through the ice.

The 30-year old man and his four year old son were ice fishing when it happened — raising the question: how do you know if the ice is safe to walk on?

Richard Heusinkveld has been ice fishing all his life.

“I go fishing for bluegills most of the time,” Heusinkveld said.

And he’s always managed to stay safe.

“Fishing for sixty years on the ice, I’ve never gone through because I just try and be careful not to put myself in a position where it might be hazardous,” Heusinkveld said.

Deputy Robert McElmurray of the Ingham County Sheriff’s Department is urging everyone to be just as careful.

“Day to day the ice changes, and we recommend that you don’t go out on the ice unless it’s at least four inches,” McElmurray said.

McElmurray says this mild winter is affecting the ice.

“The ice is not strong at all,” McElmurray said. “It creates a very unsafe condition.”

Conditions — that some business owners are warning their customers about.

Grand River Bait & Tackle posted a message of caution earlier today on their Facebook page.

“On a business level, I kind of hate to tell people the ice is bad because then people don’t come in to buy bait, they don’t want to go out fishing,” said Anna Werner, the owner of Grand River Bait & Tackle. “But on a personal level, I can sleep easier knowing that I’ve warned people.”

Werner says it’s always a good idea for ice fishers to bring equipment out with them, including spuds like these that can break through the ice.

“You drop the spud on the ice and if it goes through very easily, then you know to stay off the ice,” Werner said.

Even with these tools, Deputy McElmurray says the ice is still dangerous.

“I don’t think currently it is safe,” Deputy McElmurray said. “I’ve seen some open water — if somebody looks out and they see openings in the water — that should be a huge red flag.”

But some people are still planning to drop their lines.

“I have plans to go on Saturday, but I may give it some second thoughts, because if we get an inch plus of rain, it could damage the ice enough that it won’t be safe,” Heusinkveld said.

And staying safe is all that counts.

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