Chautauqua Lake has proven to be a popular destination — come sun or snow. Those looking to enjoy the lake’s offerings are encouraged to keep safety in mind, especially when it comes to winter activities such as ice fishing or snowmobile use.
Chautauqua County Sheriff James Quattrone said in general, ice is “never 100% safe.” He noted that ice thickness can change and vary by location, pointing out that temperature, snow cover, currents, springs and streams can all impact the ice.
The sheriff said ice thickness can be measured with a chisel/spud bar or auger and “should be measured frequently as you move.”
Quattrone offered “minimal guidelines” that always should be followed when out on any body of water during the winter.
¯ if ice thickness is under 4 inches, staff off. If at 4 inches, ice is OK for fishing or other activities on foot. And between 5 and 7 inches, ice is OK for snowmobile or ATV use;
¯ travel the ice with another person (but spread out), or at least share plans with family, friends or neighbors so a location is known. Keep them updated if plans change;
¯ consider stopping at local bait shops “as they are happy to share information on ice conditions,” Quattrone said;
¯ wear a flotation suit or a personal flotation device. Carry a pair of ice picks that make it possible to climb out;
¯ if using a heater inside an ice hut or shanty, ensure good ventilation. “A poorly ventilated shanty can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning,” the sheriff said;
¯ snowmobile travel: the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office does not recommend traveling on the ice as there are hundreds of miles of well-maintained funded trails in the county to be used. If traveling via snowmobile on the ice, a distance of 100 feet must be maintained from any ice shanty or person unless traveling at a minimum speed to keep forward movement.
As a safety example, Quattrone noted a lake rescue of two men in March 2016. The incident took place near Chautauqua Institution when two fishermen, both from Pennsylvania, fell through the ice.
One of the men was able to pull himself out of the water. The other was able to hang onto the ice until being rescued by volunteer firefighters.
“They were wearing inflatable life jackets, which that and a quick response by the local fire department, saved their lives,” Quattrone said.
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