Officials discuss ice conditions in Central Pennsylvania – here’s what you should know before ice fishing, skating

WARRINGTON TOWNSHIP, YORK COUNTY, Pa. -- With cold temperatures, some may say it’s the perfect time to ice fish or skate.

Officials with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission say to be careful though, you could be on thin ice.

Officials say intersecting cracks in the ice could be a sign of weakness, especially 45 degree angles.

To walk on it, they recommend measuring the thickness of the ice, looking for at least 4 inches of solid ice.

One fisherman though says even that’s not enough for him.

A lone ice fisherman drills into the ice at Gifford Pinchot State Park in Warrington Township.

“There’s five inches here so, ya know, that’s what I consider safe," said Pat McDermott of New Cumberland. He's been ice fishing for 50 years.'

McDermott doesn’t settle for the recommended four inches of ice thickness.

"They say four plus, but I like to see on the positive side of four," he explained.

I measure the ice too, just to double check; it's five inches.

It may be perfect conditions for ice recreation.

“It’s always fun to come out and try to outwit a fish. I chose today because there’s no wind," added McDermott.

"You have decent ice thickness on ponds and lakes like this where there’s some still water," said Ryan Walt of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Officials warn about what may appear safe versus what actually is.

"You can see there’s places where it’s open too. So you can never say the ice is safe," explained Walt.

There are signs it’s cold enough, though, like the sound of booms in the ice.

“That’s a good crack. That’s basically telling us it’s cold out here, and the ice is pushing out against the walls of a lake," explained Walt.

Other cracks aren’t so good.

"You know, intersecting at a 45 degree angle, that’s a weak spot in the ice," stated Walt. "If you see, what they call, candling ice, it could be where somebody was ice fishing before, and it’s frozen, it’ll look a little bit different, but it’ll have candling, little cracks all around it - that would be a weak spot."

In case of an emergency, remember the 1-Ten-1-Principal.

“You have 1 minute to kind of gain your composure, about 10 minutes of meaningful movement, and then, they say about 1 hour before full hypothermia sticks in," said Walt.

Always measure the ice every 10 feet, and if possible, have a buddy, ice picks, and rope nearby.

Officials say they do not recommend going out on any moving bodies of water, like creeks or rivers. They also warn about weeks where temperatures get above freezing.