COLUMBUS – With Ohioans experiencing the roller coaster of temperatures throughout the state, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is encouraging residents and out-of-state visitors to prioritize safety while participating in winter recreational activities outdoors, such as hiking or ice fishing.
With the recent cold temperatures, the ODNR says it is important to remember that no ice is safe ice, and any ice that is covered by snow should always be considered unsafe. Below are some safety tips to consider when spending time outdoors this winter.
• Prepare for your hike by finding out how long it is and the level of difficulty. Visiting a specific state park? Hikers should visit parks.ohiodnr.gov and select the appropriate state park to see a map of the hiking trails. Hikers should contact the local park office for trail conditions.
• Hikers should always let others know where they will be hiking and what time they will return.
• Check the forecast, and have a plan if severe weather strikes. If inclement weather is approaching, reschedule the outdoor activity for a different time.
• Stay on the designated trail, and follow the trail signs.
• Bring snacks and water for during the hike. Cold, dry air can dehydrate hikers quickly.
• During the winter, a frequently used trail can become packed down and be icy, even if other parts of the trail are clear. Be aware of potential slick spots and use caution at all times while hiking during the winter.
Stay Safe and Warm While Enjoying the Winter Weather
• Layers are best. Dress warmly in layers: start with insulating fabrics and use a final layer of protective fabrics.
• Come prepared, pay attention to how you feel and know when to go indoors to warm up.
• Keep your head, neck and hands covered by wearing a hat, scarf and gloves.
• Sturdy waterproof boots and warm socks are recommended for hikers, and hand warmers can help on longer hikes.
• Ice anglers should prepare and share a “float plan” to let people know when they will be out on the ice, where they will be fishing, where they will park their vehicles and when they will return.
• Contact a local ice guide or bait shop to ask about ice conditions.
• Remember that no ice is safe ice. Always be prepared.
• Always fish with a partner or in an area where several other anglers are present.
• Adequately check the ice thickness before traveling onto the ice.
• Always put your cellphone in a plastic bag to protect it from getting wet.
• Dress properly for conditions, which should include wearing an approved life vest.
• Avoid areas with feeder streams, springs, bridge pilings, docks and dam structures since ice is usually very thin there.
Additionally, ice anglers should make sure they have a valid fishing license. Ice anglers should also know the size and daily limits for the fish they hope to catch. A new rule for 2019 requires a Lake Erie fishing permit for nonresidents from Jan. 1 to April 30 when fishing Lake Erie and areas immediately upstream in creeks, rivers, and tributaries.
For more information about dressing for the winter weather in Ohio, go to parks.ohiodnr.gov/winter. To learn more about ice fishing in Ohio, go to wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/fishing/ice-fishing.
More helpful hints on winter safety are located at ohiodnr.gov/winter-recreation/recreation/winter-safety.