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Be sure to put safety first when ice-fishing

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Many of Ontario's thousands of lakes across the province are host to excellent ice-fishing opportunities, and many of Ontario's angling enthusiasts are taking advantage of the great conditions after the recent cold weather.

As such, the Ontario Conservation Officers Association (OCOA) would like to remind anglers—and anyone venturing on to frozen water bodies—to put safety first.

“Winter fishing is the time of year where many anglers are able to access their favourite fishing spots that are inaccessible during the open-water season,” said OCOA president Sean Cronsberry.

“But anglers need to be sure that ice conditions are safe and they have the equipment with them to deal with an emergency,” he stressed.

“By following some simple safety measures, it could save your life or the life of someone else.”

Ice safety tips:

  • check ice thickness and conditions frequently;
  • clear ice should be a minimum of 10 cm (four inches) for walking and ice-fishing, 12 cm (five inches) for one snowmobile or ATV, 20-30 cm (eight-12 inches) for a car or small pickup, and 30-38 cm (12-15 inches) for a medium truck (source: Lifesaving Society);
  • fish with a buddy;
  • be prepared for an emergency (wear ice picks or a floater/survival suit, and have a whistle and cellphone on hand);
  • let someone know where you will be and when you plan to return (this should include where your vehicle will be parked, what route you plan to take, and any stops you plan to make); and
  • stay off rivers and away from locks, where ice is less stable (ice conditions in areas of moving water or spring-fed lakes can be potentially unsafe at any time, ensure the ice is safe before venturing out).

“Conservation officers across Ontario regularly come across groups or individuals who are ill-equipped should trouble occur,” said Cronsberry.

"We strongly encourage everyone out on the ice to be prepared and have a plan on how to deal with an emergency.

“Should an accident occur, being prepared will greatly increase your chance of rescue and survival,” he noted.

Anglers are reminded to carry valid fishing, snowmobile, and ATV licenses with them at all times.

They also should be sure to review the 2019 Recreational Fishing Regulations Summary, which is available online and at Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) offices.

Anyone with information about a natural resources- or public safety-related offence is encouraged to call the MNRF violation reporting line at 1-877-847-7667, contact their local conservation officer directly, or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

For more information about natural resources regulations and enforcement, visit the OCOA website at www.ocoa.ca or contact your local conservation officer.

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