It has been cold enough the past few weeks to make some ice on local lakes but it is important to make sure that ice is safe to be and the DNR has some tips.

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I hope to get out on some hard water this weekend with my son but before we make that first journey out, it is important to make sure the ice is safe before taking the chance.

I have seen a few guys out already but that doesn't mean the ice is ready, it just means some guys are out fishing.

I am amazed each year at the beginning of ice fishing season and at the end how many guys will take chances on thin ice for bluegill. I know they are tasty and first and last ice is usually the best, but I'm not sure it's worth the risk when they serve fish at just about any restaurant and some stores even carry bluegills in the frozen fish department.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources suggests some basic tips on checking the ice and being safe while you do it.

FOX 17 reported that Richard Cardenas, a Barry County conservation officer said it's important to have the right tools. 

An ice spud, an axe, you know, whatever is gonna work to be able to test that ice often on your way out. Once you determine that you got good, safe ice in the area, you want to be at, you know, a life jacket nearby. Throw bag, rescue throw disk, you know, is always a good idea to have around just in case something does happen if somebody goes through."

I personally like five to six inches of good clear or black ice but the DNR says three or four will work. River fishing is much more complicated because the water is moving and you may need to wait a bit longer before venturing out on a river. As a rule, staying close to the river's edge is always best.

The DNR recommends if you or someone in your party on the ice goes through, the first thing to do is not panic. I know it seems crazy, but it is best to try and keep focused. If it's your foot that pops through, just back up and leave the way you came since you know that ice is safe.

I highly recommend the ice spikes you can hang around your neck. I have a set for each of my boys as well as a set for me. If you fall through, these allow you to dig into the ice and either help you crawl out or keep you stable until someone can pull you out. If you need to use them, dig in the ice while kicking your feet as if you are swimming in order to propel you back onto the ice. Once you are on the ice, roll away from the area you fell through.

Weather is something that affects ice conditions. Rain tends to be a little warmer and can build up on the ice and potentially weaken the ice and you could fall through. Just remember the early season and late season ice is always the most dangerous.

Spring-fed lakes can also be an issue even during the thickest of ice. If you know of springs that are highly active and cause ice deterioration even during February, stay away from those areas and even mark them with a warning to keep others safe.

It is always best to get on the ice with a few other people but if you are going alone, make sure and let someone know where you are going to be at.

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