ELLSWORTH, Maine — Just give it some time.
That’s the advice from Game Warden Shannon Fish regarding the ice on lakes and ponds around Hancock County.
While some of the warm-water ponds — those shallow ponds where the ice can form quickly — have developed some thickness of ice, on the cold-water ponds — the larger, deeper ponds that freeze more slowly — the ice still is very thin.
“Those colder bodies of water have just frozen over,” Fish said Saturday. “I know that on Branch Lake and Green Lake, the ice is thin there. The end of Green was open on the 29th and 30th.”
The snow that started falling on New Year’s Eve and continued into Sunday will not help ice formation, he said.
“If the temperatures drop down to 6 or 8 degrees for a long time, the snow might get cold enough to help the ice to form,” he said. “Generally, snow cover will slow down the ice-making process. It acts as a blanket.”
The layer of snow also can create hazardous conditions for those who want get out on the ice to fish or snowmobile.
“The snow on top of thin ice can create treacherous conditions,” Fish said. “People assume that because the ice is holding the snow, it will hold their weight.”
That’s when accidents happen.
“I would hesitate to go out on any ice right now,” he said.
The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife regularly warns Mainers to be cautious about going out onto the ice. Fish said they always should consult with local residents or wardens, who have good knowledge about the ice in the area.
He also advises to take some gear with you when you do go out onto the ice — ice picks, crampons, a life preserver — to help if you do break through the ice.
The department offers guidelines, posted on its Web site, for going out onto the ice:
ä Never guess the thickness of the ice. Check it. Check the ice in several different places using an auger or some other means to make a test hole and determine the thickness. Make several, beginning at the shore and continuing as you go out.
ä Check the ice with a partner, so if something does happen, someone is there to help you. If you are doing it alone, wear a life jacket.
ä If ice at the shoreline is cracked or squishy, stay off. Watch out for thin, clear or honeycombed ice. Dark snow and dark ice are other signs of weak spots.
ä Avoid areas with currents, around bridges and pressure ridges. Wind and currents can break ice.
ä Parents should alert children of unsafe ice in their area, and make sure they stay off the ice. If they insist on using their new skates, suggest an indoor-skating rink.
If you break through the ice, remember:
ä Don’t panic.
ä Don’t try to climb out immediately because you probably will break the ice again. Reach for solid ice.
ä Lay both arms on the unbroken ice and kick hard. This will help lift your body onto the ice. Once on the ice, roll, don’t walk, to safety.
ä To help someone who has fallen through the ice, lie down flat and reach with a branch, plank or rope, or form a human chain.
ä Don’t stand. After securing the victim, wiggle backward to the solid ice.