COLUMBUS, Ohio – With Ohioans experiencing frigid temperatures throughout the state, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is encouraging residents and out-of-state visitors to be wise while participating in winter recreational activities outdoors, such as hiking or ice fishing. With the recent cold temperatures, it is important to remember that no ice is safe ice, and any ice that is covered by snow should always be presumed to be unsafe. Those who are headed out on hunting trips may want to take extra care to equip themselves with everything they need to stay fed, hydrated, warm, and protected. To reduce the amount of time spent out in the wild, they could consider getting trail cameras that send photos to phone so that they can keep tabs on the wildlife from the comfort of home. Other than hunters, this technology could be of interest to wildlife experts and photographers. Below are some safety tips to consider when spending time outdoors this winter.
Winter Hiking Safety Tips
- Prepare for your hike by finding out how long it is and the level of difficulty. Some difficult hikes recommend bringing ropes and keeping hands free at all times to maximize safety on the trail. To that end, some hikers invest in extra pouches for their bag to carry rope and other items (learn more here).
- Know as much about your hike as you can before going. Visit the relevant website for the park to see a map of the hiking trails and contact the local park office for trail conditions. If you are hiking in another country you can still check out the hiking trail and conditions on their websites as many are posted online (such as https://www.rent.is/ for hiking trails in Iceland.)
- Check the forecast, and have a plan if severe weather strikes. If inclement weather is approaching, reschedule the outdoor activity for a different time. Difficult hikes can still be dangerous even in simple wet weather.
- Hikers should let others know where they will be hiking and what time they will return.
- Stay on the designated trail, and follow the trail signs.
- Bring snacks and water. 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.
Staying Safe and Warm While Enjoying the Winter Weather
- 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.
- 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 Fishing Safety Tips
- 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.
- Always fish with a partner or in an area where several other anglers are present.
- Contact a local ice guide or bait shop to ask about ice conditions.
- Put a cellphone in a plastic bag to protect it from getting wet.
- Adequately check the ice thickness before traveling onto the ice.
- Dress properly for conditions, which should include wearing an approved life vest.
- Ensure your tackle, fishing rod and any luggage you have is managed properly so there’s no risk of them being damaged.
- 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 Ohio fishing license. Licenses expire on Feb. 28 so anglers should purchase a new license on March 1. Ice anglers should also know the size and daily limits for the fish they hope to catch.
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.
ODNR also licenses fishing guides in the Lake Erie region. For people interested in going on an ice fishing trip with a guide, go to wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/fishing/ice-fishing/ohio-ice-fishing-guides.
To learn more about family-friendly events at Ohio’s state parks and state nature preserves, go to parks.ohiodnr.gov/calendar or naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/calendar.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.