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Ice safety is recommended for anglers and winter enthusiasts

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As ice begins to form on the region’s lakes and waterways, many anglers and outdoor enthusiasts venture out to have a good time or catch the big ones.

Mitchell’s Bay on Lake St. Clair in Chatham-Kent is a popular winter spot. But the lure of Mother Nature’s splendor can overtake you if you’re not careful.

“You have to be careful out there,” warned Cole Bailey, ice fishing expert and co-owner of Angling Sports Bait and Tackle in London. “You get variable ice conditions because there’s a lot of current flowing through this lake with all the rivers feeding it. The wind, if it blows in the wrong direction, it will break the ice.

Bailey said being prepared means having the basics of gear that could save your life if you find yourself in trouble.

Starting with a set of ice picks or ice tongs as they are called. “They’re usually hung around your neck by a string,” Bailey explained. “You grab them and stab them in the ice. What this will allow you to do is get you out of the water and ride safely.

Cleats are also essential, Bailey said. “So without a good pair of boots with cleats, you’ll be slipping and sliding all over the place.”

A spud bar is also a must, he said. “It’s a big, heavy, two-piece chisel that you drive into the ice and you can check the thickness.”Cole Bailey of Angling Sports in London holds a protective bar to check the thickness of the ice, January 17, 2022. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV News)Finally, he said never to go out without wearing a flotation suit. “This is another very important piece of equipment that will go a long way to keeping you safe on the ice.”

OPP also warns those who enjoy the outdoors in winter to consider the risks associated with their recreational activities.

“Whether or not it’s the rivers in our area, the streams, the water eventually fluctuates below,” the OPP inspector said. Shawn Johnson. “So it can be thick in one area and all of a sudden, because it’s free-flowing, you’re going into a thin area. So you could be participating in outdoor activities and the next thing you know, you find yourself in danger.

Area municipalities are also warning outdoor enthusiasts that it is not safe to skate or play hockey on stormwater management ponds.