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'I never trust ice': After rescues on bay of Green Bay, officials offer advice to stay safe on ice

Posted at 7:32 AM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 08:32:32-05

HOWARD, Wis. (NBC 26) — Fishermen like Hank Kalkopf say a day of fishing can be a little riskier on the ice.

"I fish a lot in the summer and now's the chance to come out on the ice and enjoy the day," the Sheboygan man said. "There's a lot of chances you take. There's heaves in the ice that can happen anytime where things open, and I don't take that chance."

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Fishermen like Hank Kalkopf say a day of fishing can be a little riskier on the ice.

In the span of one week in January, almost 30 people were rescued on the ice in the bay of Green Bay. In one scenario, officials report 27 of them were stranded on a frozen chunk. In another incident, two men went through the ice.


Northeast Wisconsinites like Kalkopf have learned how to try to stay safe through decades of experience.

"The last time I drove my truck on the ice it was pretty scary and I said then I would never do it again," he said. "And I will never do it again."

The recent wave of ice rescues prompted a public warning from the Department of Natural Resources.

"I never trust ice," DNR Marine Warden Gaven Brault said. "There's no such thing as safe ice, I always tell people."

Brault says staying safe out on the ice can be common sense. For example, he says never trust a frozen surface that's next to or near open water.

"Let people know where you're going kind of like a boating thing," he said. "Let somebody, a significant other or companion, know."

Ice rescue

Brault advises people to carry ice picks and a rope.

"If I'm able to, I can throw it to somebody if something happens and help possibly pull them out," the warden said.

The DNR says the bay of Green Bay can be slow to freeze over, especially when ice is broken to allow ships through.

"Respect the ice and don't think that a fish is worth your life or somebody else's life," Brault said. "If you don't know for sure, don't go."

It's a piece of advice Kalkopf takes before hitting the bay with one goal in mind: "catch some fish."