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What is the right amount of ice for winter activities? Ice fishing expert explains

With the emphatic arrival of winter weather, there are multiple ways to enjoy the outdoors, as long as you do them safely.

DES MOINES, Iowa — After a very warm December, the tides certainly changed to kick off 2022. The year's first winter storm and subzero low temperatures on back-to-back days.

That means the first opportunity to get out and enjoy your favorite winter activities. From sledding and tubing to ice fishing and ice skating, it's time to get back outside, but safely of course.

For ice fishing, the ice needs to be at least four inches thick. If it's two inches or less, stay off of it.

Randy Bieghler, a Des Moines native with over 30 years of ice fishing experience, says there is a good way for him to find out how deep the ice is: slowly.

"I hit the same spot twice. If it [spud bar (ice pick)] doesn't go through, it's probably thicker than two and a half inches," he said. "After that, it's safe to walk on."

Credit: WOI

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For Bieghler, the winter hasn't been cold enough long enough quite yet, but there is optimism for the days to come.

"I think by this weekend, with the really cold last week or so that we've had, the water will start to freeze up and we can really start to get out there," Bieghler told Local 5.

Although no snow is expected over the next week, there are certainly other activities you can do to take "advantage" of the bitter cold that lies ahead for the rest of the week.

People falling through the ice is a major concern for first responders this time of year. If you are out on the ice and fall through, it's important to stay calm and swim toward the shore.

"You can use legs to kick and try to stay out as low and keep a low profile as possible," said Johnston-Grimes Fire Department Deputy Chief Mike Gentosi. "The  more you stay low and keep your weight dispersed, the easier it's going to be for you to stay on top of the shelf of the ice."

He also said standing or kneeling on the ice can create too much force, causing the ice to crack. If you are going out, make sure the pond does not have a heater, which can create weaker spots in the ice.

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