Petersberg Pass snowshoers

Snowshoers traverse the Petersberg Pass. 

MassWildlife advises us to stay safe this winter by taking a few moments to review these ice safety tips:

New ice is stronger than old ice. Four inches of clear, newly formed ice may support one person on foot, while a foot or more of old, partially thawed ice may not.

Ice doesn’t freeze uniformly. Continue to check ice conditions frequently as you venture out onto the ice.

Ice formed over flowing water and currents is often more dangerous. Avoid traveling onto ice-bound rivers and streams, as the currents make ice thickness unpredictable. Many lakes and ponds may contain spring holes and other areas of currents that can create deceptively dangerous thin spots.

Before heading out onto the ice tell someone your plans, including where you are going and when you expect to return.

Carry a cellphone in case of emergency.

Carry ice picks and rope with you on the ice. In case of emergency, drive the nails into the ice and pull yourself to safety while kicking.

Wear your life jacket. If you fall in, a life jacket will keep you at the surface and can provide insulation against the effects of cold water.

The following ice thickness guidelines are for clear, blue ice on lakes and ponds. White ice or snow ice is only about half as strong as new clear ice and can be very treacherous. Use an ice chisel, auger, or cordless drill to make a hole in the ice and determine its thickness and condition. Bring a tape measure to check ice thickness at regular intervals.

If the ice thickness is 2 inches or less, stay off; 4 inches usually is safe for ice fishing; 5 inches safe for snowmobile or ATV; 8-12 inches ok for car or small pickup and 12 to 15 inches should be safe for a medium truck.

If you fall in:

Don’t panic: Call for help if there are people nearby.

Don’t remove winter clothing: Air trapped in your clothes can provide warmth and help you float.

Turn the direction you came from: Ice you previously walked on should be the safest.

Place your hands and arms on an unbroken surface and kick your legs: If you have ice picks or a pair of nails, use them to pull yourself up onto the ice while kicking.

Lie flat and roll away: Once your torso is on firm ice, roll toward thicker ice to distribute your weight.

Find shelter and get warm: Change out of wet clothing and find warm, dry coverings. If you are in a remote area, get to or start a campfire. Otherwise, get to a car or house. Seek medical advice from your physician.

If someone else falls in, Remember the phrase “Preach-Reach-Throw-Go.”

Preach: Call 911 if you can. Shout to the victim to reassure them help is on the way.

Reach: If you can safely reach them from shore, extend an object like a rope, jumper cables, tree branch, or ladder to them.

Throw: Toss one end of a rope or something that will float to the victim.

Go: If the situation is too dangerous for you to perform a rescue, call 911 or go to find help. Untrained rescuers can become victims themselves.

If a pet falls in:

Do not attempt to rescue the pet, go find help. Well-meaning pet owners can easily become victims themselves when trying to assist their pets. Remember to always keep pets leashed while walking on or near ice.

Now, as for winter snowshoeing or hiking.

The NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has provided some safety and education tips from which we all can benefit.

A well-packed emergency kit will help you manage any circumstance the outdoors throws your way. Include the following items in your emergency kit:

A whistle will help you attract the attention of nearby hikers or rescuers.

A signal mirror can reflect sunlight up to rescue aircraft, indicating your location if you are lost.

Bright colored clothes make it easier for rescuers to spot you. If you need to leave the trail for any reason, tying cloth to a tree at the edge of the trail can help you navigate your way back safely.

Duct tape is handy for fixing gear or making quick shelters.

A pocket knife or multitool can serve many purposes, both in an emergency and in general.

A space blanket provides warmth and protection from the elements and can be used to make an emergency shelter.

An emergency shelter is good to have on backcountry trips, too. This could be a tent or simply a tarp and rope.

Ice Fishing derby

New York ice fishers, please know that the Chatham Lions Club ice fishing derby is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 5 from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Queechy Lake in Canaan. Cash prizes for first, second and third place, four fish categories, $1,000 in raffle prize equipment and a 50/50 raffle, Entry fee: $15 for adults, $5 for children 15-and-younger. To preregister send entry fee to Chatham Lions Club, PO Box 216, Chatham, NY 12037. For more info contact Al Meier at 518-755-0330.

Massachusetts residents interested in entering this derby shouldn’t forget to buy their 2022 non-resident New York fishing licenses.

Creel surveys on Lake Champlain to be conducted

Staying in New York ice fishing for a while, the NYDEC announced ice fishing creel surveys will be conducted for a second year on the New York waters of Lake Champlain from January through March 2022.

“Last year’s ice fishing creel surveys provided valuable data that will help DEC continue to manage Lake Champlain as one of New York’s top fishing destinations,” said DEC Commissioner Seggos. “Continuing that work this year will help us better understand what anglers are targeting and catching so we can evaluate and adjust our management practices as needed.”

The ice fishing survey is part of a larger, two-year effort to survey both ice and open water anglers. Data gathered during these surveys will serve as a baseline to help DEC Fisheries’ biologists better understand angler use and expectations, while also informing management actions on Lake Champlain.

The 2022 ice fishing survey will take place at four access points: Plattsburgh Boat Launch on Cumberland Bay; Willsboro Bay Boat Launch; Bulwagga Bay Campground; and South Bay Boat Launch. Anglers coming off the ice will be asked to participate by sharing information about their day of fishing and providing DEC creel clerks data such as target species, number caught, and size.

Such information will help DEC develop Lake Champlain management practices that benefit anglers and the fishery. As an incentive to participate, anglers will be entered into a drawing for several ice fishing gear prizes, including a jet sled, jigging rod, rechargeable aerator, and an insulated bait bucket.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Banquet

The Bay State Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will be holding a banquet on Feb. 12 at 5 p.m. at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club, 24 West Stockbridge Road, Stockbridge. There are a dozen entrance fee scenarios, but a single ticket costs $90, or a couple ticket costs $140. There will be great food and chances to win top notch firearms, premium trips and exclusive gear. Seats and tickets are limited and you can reserve your tickets by registering online (www.rmef.org/Masssachusetts) or by calling Gary Johnston at 413-441-0361. You might want to check on Friday to make sure it has not been cancelled due to COVID-19.

Annual Pheasant Fundraising/Turkey Shoot and Dinner

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association (LSA) is tentatively holding its Annual Pheasant Fundraising Turkey Shoot and Dinner on Sunday, Feb. 6. The turkey shoot will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Prizes include NY strip steaks, turkeys, pork loins spiral hams. Dinner is from 5 to 7 p.m. The cost for adults is $15 and for children 12-and-under $7.

Every year, MassWildlife stocks an average of 40,000 pheasants on Wildlife Management Areas and other lands open to the public. LSA helps raise and release them. They are stocked for recreational hunting and are paid for by revenues from license fees; however, the cost of raising them is the responsibility of LSA, and the caretakers are all club volunteers.

Gene Chague can be reached at berkwoodsandwaters@gmail.com or 413-637-1818.

Gene Chague is a longtime sportsman and editor of The Eagle's Berkshire Woods and Waters outdoors column.