Conservation Officers Urge Ice Safety After Several Incidents Statewide

Department of Natural Resources, Lansing, MI — February 4, 2020

It’s that time of year when sportsmen venture out onto frozen surfaces to fish, ride snowmobiles, take spectacular photos, and explore Michigan’s rivers and lakes. How do you know if the ice is safe? The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has published Safety Tips on what to look for when venturing out on winter ice activities.

Photo Courtesy of Michigan DNR

Despite freezing temperatures throughout the state, Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers urge ice-goers to use extreme caution when on or near the ice and to know what to do if you or someone you’re with breaks through the ice.

Sgt. Jason Becker, who patrols southeast Michigan, reports that six snowmobiles have fallen through the ice in that region over the past 11 days.

“We’re seeing a mix of situations – snowmobilers riding into open water and snowmobilers who break through the ice,” Becker said. “Be aware of the ice conditions before you go out. Do not rely on yesterday’s conditions. Weather changes can rapidly affect the ice in a short amount of time, even if it’s a sudden drop in the temperature.”

On Jan. 22, Upper Peninsula conservation officers near Garden responded to reports of a drowning after strong winds created a 4- to 5-foot-wide pressure crack, exposing a portion of Lake Michigan.

Officers said an angler had been operating his off-road vehicle to or from his ice shanty, which was located on the far side of the ice that had been separated by the pressure crack. It appeared the man mistakenly navigated his ORV into the open water, where it then sank 10 to 15 feet.

The DNR encourages everyone to pay close attention to the different characteristics of the ice, wear an insulated snowmobile suit (that can serve as a personal flotation device) or a personal flotation device, and carry ice picks in an accessible location.

For more ice safety information go to


  • Your safety is your responsibility! There is not a reliable “inch-thickness” to determine if ice is safe.
  • You can test ice thickness and quality using a spud, needle bar, or auger.
  • Strongest ice: clear with a bluish tint.
  • Weak ice: ice formed by melted and refrozen snow. Appears milky.
  • Stay off ice with slush on top. Slush ice is only half as strong as clear ice and indicates the ice is not freezing from the bottom.
  • A sudden cold front with low temperatures can create cracks within a half-day.
  • A warm spell may take several days to weaken ice, and cause the ice to thaw during the day and refreeze at night.
  • Ice weakens with age.
  • If there’s ice on the lake but water around the shoreline, be extra cautious.
  • Stronger the current on the lake, the more likely the ice will give to open water.
  • Avoid areas of ice with protruding debris like logs or brush.
  • Keep an eye out for dock bubblers or de-icers as the ice near these mechanisms will be unsafe. Always check the ice and be aware of your surroundings.