Northern Michigan News: With the arrival of winter—and as ice-related activities become a more prominent part of Michigan’s outdoor recreation scene—Department of Natural Resources officials remind anglers, snowmobilers, skiers and others that no ice is ever 100-percent safe.

“All ice has the propensity to be dangerous,” said Lt. Steven Burton of the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. “Obviously, during some times of the year, some ice is much better than other ice, but no ice is ever completely safe ice.”

Anyone who ventures out onto the ice is advised to keep the following precautions in mind:

  • Check with local sources of information — such as the bait shop or corner store – about ice conditions before venturing out.
  • Travel in pairs whenever possible and make sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Carry a spud to test the quality of the ice as you move further onto the ice.
  • Avoid inlets and outlets, areas with natural springs or currents, and places were structures – docks, pilings, dead trees or other vegetation – extend through the surface of the ice.
  • Pay attention to wind direction – especially on large bodies of water.
  • Wear a personal flotation device (PFD) and carry personal safety devices such as spikes and rope to help you get out of the water should the ice break. 

“It’s important to stress that just because water is frozen doesn’t mean you shouldn't carry a PFD. It’s not the law; it’s just good common sense,” said Lt. Burton. “A personal flotation device like a floatable boat cushion or life jacket may not help you get out of the water, but will keep you floating until someone responds to pull you out.” 

Lt. Burton said it’s also important for residents to remember that ice doesn’t form with uniform thickness on any body of water; there can always be thin spots. He added that ice formed by melted and refrozen snow will appear milky and is very porous and weak. 

“Any ice covered by snow should always be presumed unsafe,” he said.

In the event that someone witnesses a person breaking through the ice, the DNR advises:

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Do not run out to the victim. If help is not immediately available, approach cautiously – lying on the ice to distribute your weight – and attempt to reach the victim with a rope, pole or ladder.
  • Take exposure victims to the hospital for treatment. 

“Outdoor recreation is one of the best things about Michigan winters. Whether you’re an angler, a hiker, a snowmobiler or someone who simply likes to explore the outdoors, there’s no better place to be,” said Lt. Burton. “Just make sure to keep ice safety as a key part of your winter recreation plans.”

To learn more about recreation safety, including DNR class offerings in traditional and online settings, visit or  

Get more tips from Northern Michigan DNR at MyNorth Outdoors.