DNR warns anglers of dangerous ice conditions in Delta County

Contact: John Pepin, (media) 906-228-6561
Agency: Natural Resources

Feb. 2, 2021

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is urging anglers to use extra caution when braving the ice on Lake Michigan in Delta County.

“The ice conditions are reported as quite variable in and around Little Bay de Noc, especially at river mouths,” said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer. “Several anglers have fallen through the ice recently, either while walking or operating snowmobiles or all-terrain vehicles. We want anyone venturing onto the ice to take safety precautions and be doubly careful.”

Good ice at the head of Little Bay de Noc may create a false impression of safe ice conditions elsewhere. In some places, the ice is a foot thick, while measuring less than an inch only 100 yards away.

River mouths create areas of unstable ice thickness, often with currents moving underneath. On Lake Michigan, the combination of warmer than typical temperatures and gusting winds can create cracks in the ice large enough to fall into.

On Jan. 21, a Delta County man drowned after his off-road vehicle went through the ice into 10- to 15 feet of water.

Places on Lake Michigan in Delta County of special concern include Saunders Point, Hunters Point, the Fayette and Ogontz access sites, Farmers Dock, and the mouths of the Escanaba, Days and Ford rivers.

The DNR has produced a list of ice safety tips, including information on things to consider before heading out, what to know about ice safety and what to do if you fall through.

Among these tips:

  • Tell someone where you are going and what time to expect you back. Relaying your plan can help save your life if something does happen to you on the ice.
  • Ice conditions vary from lake to lake. Find a good local source — a bait shop or local fishing guide — that is knowledgeable about ice conditions on the lake you want to fish on.
  • You can't always tell the strength of ice simply by its look, its thickness, the temperature or whether or not it is covered with snow.
  • Clear ice that has a bluish tint is the strongest. Ice formed by melted and refrozen snow appears milky and is very porous and weak.
  • Ice covered by snow always should be presumed unsafe. Snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows the freezing process. Ice under the snow will be thinner and weaker. A snowfall also can warm up and melt existing ice.
  • If there is slush on the ice, stay off. Slush ice is only about half as strong as clear ice and indicates the ice is no longer freezing from the bottom.
  • Be especially cautious in areas where air temperatures have fluctuated. A warm spell may take several days to weaken the ice; however, when temperatures vary widely, causing the ice to thaw during the day and refreeze at night, the result is a weak, spongy, or honeycombed ice that is unsafe.
  • Check ice thickness with a spud and ruler every few steps.
  • If you are walking out onto a frozen body of water with a group, avoid crossing ice in a single file. Avoid standing together in a spot. Spread out.
  • Remember, ice does not form with uniform thickness on any body of water. Underwater springs and currents can wear thin spots on the ice.

View the entire list of DNR ice safety tips.