Guidelines on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website state that ice needs to be at least 4 inches thick for safe foot travel and at least 5 inches thick to support snowmobiles or ATVs. This season, there are very few places that meet this criteria for being on any lake or pond ice. The website emphasizes that the guidelines are for “new, clear, solid ice,” and that other factors besides thickness need to be taken into careful consideration which can cause ice to be unsafe. So far, this winter has been very unique and remarkable for so many lakes being slow to freeze at all, with much open water still in mid-February due to record-breaking warmth in December, and above-average temperatures in both January and February. The state’s largest ice-fishing derby is scheduled for next weekend here in the Maine Lakes Region, on Sebago Lake. The Sebago Lake Rotary, which runs the derby, has created a contingency plan they very well may have to implement for safety reasons. They have this plan at-the-ready after having to cancel the event four times in recent years: If there isn’t enough safe ice on the big lake, they will move the derby to smaller lakes and ponds throughout Cumberland County. And with the warm upper 40 degree temperatures along with nighttime temperatures not dropping nearly as low as is normal this mid to later February, the smaller lakes themselves will need to be scrutinized and very carefully evaluated as well. Great caution should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and this is the official website to stay current on next weekend’s Derby:

Being one of the major fundraising events for the local Rotary, please keep this in mind and spread the word as to charitable giving plans this year, should the weather adjust the opportunity to participate!