By Tony Garcia
JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — Michigan winters are synonymous with outdoor activities.
Pond hockey, ice fishing, snowmobiling: all staples of a fun January in the mitten, but if proper precautions aren’t taken, things can go south in a hurry.
“Safety first,” said Tom Knutson, owner of Knutson’s sporting goods in Brooklyn. “It has to be safety first.”
Knutson is an expert outdoorsman and he says there are a number of precautions to take if you’re going on ice in the winter.
“The first thing you need for safety is to have an ice spud,” he said. “It allows you to walk and test the ice as you go… If it’s one of those situations where you hit it and it goes through right away, get off, you’re on unsafe ice.”
One frequent mistake people make is assuming just because one lake they were on is safe in a certain area, the next one will be as well.
“Never will you find two lakes in an area being the same,” Knutson said. “If you don’t know your lake, be cautious.”
It doesn’t just vary lake to lake. One body of water isn’t uniform, so there could be portions of thick, solid ice in one spot and one that isn’t safe just a few yards away.
Some of the most important safety tips are to let people know where you’re going, bring ice picks with you and wear a life jacket.
Jackson County Sheriff Gary Schuette also says it’s important to have a partner.
“The buddy system is absolutely the right way to go,” he said.
He also said lack of planning is a common mistake people make when things go wrong. He advises everybody to inform someone where they will be and how long they’ll be there.
But this season with Covid-19 has seen a new set of challenges.
“There’s nothing else to do so there’s a lot more new people into ice fishing now,” Knutson said. “That’s the ones that worry us more.”
He also said it’s just pure luck there haven’t been more incident’s this season with the inconsistent ice we’ve seen.
Knutson also added if you have all the proper tools and are prepared for the worst situation to arise, that’s how you can survive.