As winter carries on and “cabin fever” intensifies, this can be a great time for many outdoor enthusiasts. Ice fishing, ice skating and the like are all fun seasonal opportunities to be enjoyed but always in a safe and smart manner. Unpredictable weather, temperature fluctuations, precipitation amounts and sunlight can all affect the thickness and integrity of ice. Streams, rivers and areas with moving water (pond inflows and outflows, natural springs) are always less stable than slow moving or stagnant water areas. Ponds and lakes with bottom-diffused aeration systems can prevent ice formation around the diffuser stations and effect the integrity of the ice as a whole. A general rule of thumb for safe ice thickness is anything under 4 inches, stay off. It is important to remember, however, that ice thickness can differ in various spots of the same pond and the ice formed (or lack thereof) around the edge of the pond is always weaker. So before you grab the skates or ice rod make sure you do your homework; talk to locals about ice conditions, check the weather, test the ice thickness yourself and if you’re ever in doubt, always err on the side of caution.