The temperatures in Michigan wildly fluctuated during the first week of February and could cause unstable ice to form on lakes from snow melt refreezing, prompting warnings to ice fisherman.
The warm weather melted a lot of snow and ice, which refroze as the temperatures plummeted. The ice formed by refrozen snow appears milky, is very porous and could be very weak.
Three teens were walking along the shoreline of the Muskegon River on Thursday night when the ice broke and two boys fell in. A third was trying to help when he went under and recovery teams in Osceola County have searched for the 15-year-old boy.
The cold temperatures and gusty wind kept people off the lakes in West Michigan on Friday night, but D&R Sports Center owner Randy VanDam was confident people would be itching to get out to fish on Feb. 9 and 10.
"This time of year what else do we have, deer season is over, hunting is over but for the most part its ice fishing," VanDam said.
VanDam said he has been ice fishing many times and has learned, sometimes the hard way, what it takes to prevent yourself from falling in.
"Every year we have a situation where guys are anxious to be out there so they aren't as careful as they should be," he said.
For VanDam, safety starts with having the right tools and the right advice.
"A buddy system is always a good way and don't walk right next to each other. it's always safest to follow a guy who's bigger than you," he said jokingly.
When a lake freezes, that doesn't mean the ice is the same depth wherever you go VanDam warned.
"Lakes freeze at different levels and there's springs and different things," he said.
He likes to make sure there's at least four inches of solid ice when he heads out on a lake.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources suggested people should test the depth of the ice with a spud and always take a cellphone out with you in case you need to call for help.
The DNR has more information about ice safety on their website.