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Brian Martin and his girlfriend, Heidi McCarter of Meredith, cover their on-ice fire pit outside their bob house on Meredith Bay Tuesday in anticipation of the storm. (DAN SEUFERT/Union Leader Correspondent)

Meredith derby anglers told to beware of thin ice

MEREDITH — Local and state ice experts are warning people planning to take part in this weekend's Great Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby to watch out for thin ice.

"There will be some spots where the thin ice is invisible because of the fresh snow," said state Fish and Game Lt. James Goss.

There is one area of the Lake Winnipesaukee that has been particularly unsafe this year, a large section of water with thin or no ice near Welch Island in Gilford.

"That is a very bad spot this winter," Goss said. "We want people to stay away from that section of the lake."

This winter's uneven temperatures and high winds have affected ice formation, particularly on the state's larger lakes, Fish and Game officials said.

A Jan. 5 aerial survey of Lake Winnipesaukee by the New Hampshire Civil Air Patrol revealed treacherous ice conditions on some parts of the lake, including the open water near Welch Island.

"Caution is in order for those going out onto the ice, especially on the large lakes," said Goss. "Don't let the cold temperatures fool you — some areas that have traditionally been safe for ice anglers and other outdoor recreationists are not safe this year. We are urging people to check the ice thickness for yourself before you go out onto any frozen water body."

Don't drive on ice

Because of the unpredictable ice conditions, it is not advisable to drive vehicles onto the ice, Goss said.

Those on foot should carefully assess ice safety before venturing out by using an ice chisel or auger to determine ice thickness and condition. Continue to do this as you get further out on to the ice because the thickness of the ice will not be uniform all over the water body.

According to Don Miller, fisheries biologist, "Even though the winter of 2013-2014 has been cold so far, ice conditions on Lake Winnipesaukee are highly variable. Extreme caution should be used in this area."

Although all ice is potentially dangerous, the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover offers a rule of thumb on ice thickness: There should be a minimum of 6 inches of hard ice before individual foot travel, and 8 to 10 inches of hard ice for snow machine or All-Terrain Vehicle travel.


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