The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry offers safety suggestions for ice fishing and snowmobiling on frozen waters.

Before venturing onto ice, especially early in the winter, it is important to check the thickness of the ice using an ax or chisel; chop until at least six inches of dark ice is visible. Six inches of ice is enough to support 4,000 pounds, according to the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. One cannot assume that if there is a track on the lake, the ice is safe.

To minimize risk, check with the rangers or wardens who patrol the area where activities will take place.

When riding on large, interconnected lakes, some hazard areas to avoid are thoroughfares, inlets, outlets, pressure ridges and spring holes. Anywhere there is moving water should be avoided, because moving water will not freeze as easily as standing water.

Recommendations include bringing basic safety equipment on winter excursions on frozen lakes, for example, a throw bag for pulling someone else out of the water and “picks of life” for pulling oneself out. These are ice picks with a retractable cover over the sharp end; a pair of good-sized spikes will serve the same propose. Also helpful to have are matches in a watertight container, a compass and a small first aid kit.

Those who plan a day of recreation on the ice are advised to tell someone where they are going and what time they expect to return.