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Colorado Fishing News Back to Colorado Fishing News
Ice Fisherman's Rescue at Chatfield State Park Offers Lessons in Safety
2/15/2009
Credit:
Colorado State Parks news release www.colorado.gov/parks Deb Frazier (303) 866-3203 ext. 4342, deb.frazier@state.co.us

LITTLETON, Colo. - Michael Judd, the Chatfield State Park ranger who rescued an ice fisherman earlier this month, said Wednesday that the incident offers several important safety lessons.

The ice fisherman, who was treated for hypothermia and released, has not been identified.

Judd said the man had walked about 50 yards out on the ice, which had become unstable because of the warm temperatures. The man was not wearing a life jacket or a personal floatation device (PFD) and was
fishing alone. Judd said that Colorado State Parks, a leader in promoting safe outdoor recreation year-round, recommends that all ice fishermen wear a PFD and fish with a buddy.

"When the ice fisherman fell through the ice, a jogger heard him yelling. We never would have known that the man fell into the reservoir if the jogger had not been nearby," said Judd.

Judd, who had trained for such rescues for five years at the annual Colorado State Parks ranger safety classes, responded to the call from the jogger. Bystanders on the shore helped Judd secure a safety rope. Judd then crawled out on the ice on his hands and knees, to better spread out his weight and avoid falling through the ice, and tossed a second rescue rope to the fisherman.

"I was able to pull him out of the water and the people on the shore used another safety rope to pull us both back to land," said Judd. The winter reservoir rescue was Judd's first. "State parks' annual safety training on the rescue equipment and the techniques provided the exact information that I needed."

At many Colorado State Parks, ice has formed over lakes, ponds, and streams. For people who ice fish, waterfowl hunt, ice skate and play out on the ice, the basics of ice safety can prevent a mistake from becoming fatal.

Always assume that unsafe ice conditions may occur anywhere and that ice thickness varies from place to place. Four inches of ice will provide a margin of safety and is generally considered safe for ice fishing and ice-skating. Snowmobiles and ATV's need at least five inches of thickness. The best advice is stay off the ice when there is any question about thickness and conditions.

Signs of unsafe ice include: ice of different colors, water on top of the ice, cracks, pressure ridges, open water and bubbles in the ice. Also, beware of ice covered with snow. Sometimes the snow serves as
insulation, keeping the ice from melting. Other times, the snow has the opposite effect, insulating the surface from freezing.

If you do venture onto the ice, remember the following ice safety tips:

* Never go onto the ice alone. A buddy may be able to call for help if you fall in. Also, never attempt to walk out onto the ice to rescue your friend because you might also fall through the ice.

* Avoid alcoholic beverages. Alcohol increases your chance for hypothermia, which is the loss of body temperature, and increases the likelihood of hypothermia.

* Always wear a life jacket. Wear a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) over winter clothing. Life jackets can provide excellent flotation and protection from hypothermia.

* Assemble a personal safety kit. Always wear a safety kit on your body when going out onto the ice. Safety kits should include an ice pick, rope and a whistle to call for help.

* Always keep your pets on a leash. Never allow your dog to run out onto the ice and never walk your dog near a frozen lake or pond without a leash. If your dog falls through the ice, do not attempt a
rescue. Go for help.

* Reach-Throw-Go. If you can't reach the person from shore, throw them a flotation device or a rope. If you still can't help the person quickly - go for help.

If you fall through the ice:

* Don't panic. Try to remain calm to conserve as much energy as possible. Try to get your arms onto the ice and kick as hard as you can with your feet to help lift you onto the ice, and then roll to safety.
If you can't get out of the cold water by yourself, take appropriate actions to extend your survival time while waiting to be rescued:

* Do not swim. Swimming will cause your body to lose heat much faster than if you stay as still as possible.

* Act slowly and deliberately to conserve heat. Expect a progressive decrease in your strength and ability to move. Make the harder maneuvers at the beginning, while you can.

* Keep your upper body above water. Keep your head and upper body as far out of the water as reasonably possible to conserve body heat.

No one can guarantee you that the ice is safe. The decision to go out onto the ice is personal and should be made after taking the precautionsto reduce the risks.