Watch out for thin ice

This cold weather is just perfect for anglers itching to bait their hook and go ice fishing.

Shanties are starting to pop up on local lakes, like Otsego Lake in Gaylord.

But before you step on the ice, the Department of Natural Resources wants you to know what's there.

"The ice still isn't good yet, we're all still taking a big chance, ice fishermen, and weâ??re daring," laughs William LaMotte.

The LaMotte family was hunkered down on Otsego Lake Tuesday afternoon perch fishing for the first time this late ice-forming season.

â??If it's good, solid ice, Iâ??ll go out on four inches, not anything less than that, you're pretty at risk," says LaMotte.

â??I'd say it's about 8, 9 inches," says DNR Conservation Sergeant Michael Borkovich, who checked the thickness of Otsego Lake Tuesday.

Borkovich also checked in on some shanties. He says right now, he believes portions of Otsego Lake are safe.

â??I think it's always wise to wait, check, wait, check, and when you feel comfortable, personally I like four or more inches of ice," says Borkovich.

But that's not the case for all lakes and rivers in Northern Michigan. Mullet Lake in Cheboygan County was open water just last week. Borkovich says before you step on ice, take proper safety procedures. Know ice thickness and condition, wear bright clothes, and carry a life jacket, and have safety items, like an ice pick, for the chance you break through. The pick is a life-saving item that's just $18. Another tip, try not to fish alone.

"Somebody always knows where I am, and roughly what time Iâ??ll be back," says Adam Nowitzke, who does fish alone.

Nowitzke says he's been at the bottom of Otsego Lake, and the last thing he wants to do is pull himself out again. He prods the ice in front of him as he walks to his shanty to check for open water.

â??I'm a little finicky, I prefer five or six inches actually before Iâ??m going to be safe, feeling safe," says Nowitzke.

You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again. The DNR stresses safety first.

A couple fishermen were at Mullet Lake to see what the conditions were like. They were scouting it. They said before they take the ice, they're going to follow a guinea pig. Now if you're that guinea pig, the DNR says make sure you're walking on safe ice. Donâ??t risk it.

The DNR also says if you do fall into a lake, the best thing for you to do is spread out as wide as you can.

If you're submerged, find the hole you fell through, get out, and roll to thicker ice.

For other safety tips, visit the website.

To visit the Michigan DNR website which offers fishing reports and updates ice conditions, CLICK HERE.