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How can you tell if your pond is safe to walk on? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How can you tell if a pond is safe to walk on?

Q: How can you tell if a pond is safe to walk on?

Beth – Franklin, PA

A: Ice is fun—but it can be dangerous business.

Winter brings cold weather and snow to your pond or lake, as well as a perfect layer of ice for skating, ice fishing, snowmobiling and more. You may want to get out there and play, but it’s important to know whether your ice is safe and strong or a potential hazard.

Here’s how to determine whether the ice on your pond is thick enough and safe for wintertime fun.

1. Check Its Temperature, Formation

After about two to three weeks of freezing temperatures, a solid sheet of ice will begin to form on your pond or lake. But low temps aren’t the only thing that influence ice formation. Water currents, wind and snow coverage will also make a difference in the integrity of the frozen surface. So once the weather and temperatures stabilize after several weeks, you can venture onto the ice and inspect its thickness.

2. Check Surface for Quality

Ice quality matters. When you inspect the ice, you can visually gauge its quality by looking for bubbles, trapped snow and cracks. You can also determine its quality by color, as a solid blue ice sheet is much stronger than a white brittle layer, which is caused by air pockets and other flaws. Of course, new ice is stronger than old ice, too, as temperature fluctuations haven’t thawed and refrozen the ice, which can weaken its integrity.

In addition, if you’ve left your aeration system running while the ice has been forming, the ice layer will have air pockets—and be unsafe for winter recreation.

3. Verify Its Thickness

You’ve given the water time to freeze and the ice time to form, and you’ve ensured the quality of the ice sheet’s surface. The next step is to verify its thickness. You can either drill or cut samples—but make sure you do so in multiple locations as you work your way toward the center of the pond as the water won’t necessarily freeze evenly.

In general, a layer of ice less than 3 inches is too thin for most people to walk out on. It may be able to hold up lighter people or small animals but can easily crack. So if you plan to have a group of people on the pond or want to take your snowmobile out on your lake, an ice formation of 6 to 8 inches minimum is ideal.

4. Be Patient, Stay Safe

Winter recreation on an ice-covered pond is fun—but be patient and use extreme caution when venturing on the ice. Take time to inspect the ice quality and take samples because doing so can make all the difference between a blast and a disaster.

Always make sure you have a life ring or floatation device within reach in case someone accidentally falls through the ice. And always use common sense when venturing out—better to be safe than sorry!

Pond Talk: What is your favorite wintertime activity on your frozen lake or pond?

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If I’m going to shut my aerator down for the winter, when should I do it? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: If I’m going to shut my aerator down for the winter, when should I do it?

Q: If I’m going to shut my aerator down for the winter, when should I do it?

Syd – Jackson, WY

A: Ice skating, hockey, curling, broomball, ice fishing—part of the joy of having your own pond or lake is all the wintertime sports that can be played on the ice. These frosty, fun activities are the main reason why folks shut down their aerator for the winter, as keeping one running will create a hole in the ice and make the ice unstable.

If you plan to turn your lake into an ice rink this year, turn off, pull out and store your aerator before the ice begins to form. Why? Because if ice that forms on the water surface has been moving for even a short time, it can be porous and not suitable for skating. Even movement on one end of the lake and not the other can make the ice at the edges unsafe.

Here’s the shutdown process we recommend:

  1. Unplug and shut your aeration system down completely. It’s critical to do this before the ice starts to build on your pond’s or lake’s surface for the safety of those who will skate on the pond.
  2. Stow the cabinet and compressor away. Your airline and plate may stay in the pond, but the system’s cabinet and compressor should be stored indoors to keep dry and prevent condensation and rusting.
  3. Cover flex tube and airlines ends. Doing so will prevent debris from entering and plugging up the airlines.
  4. Have an emergency plan, just in case. While you’re prepping your lake for ice skating fun, now’s a good time to make sure you have water safety items available, too, like a Life Ring. If the ice breaks, a safety preserver like this can save someone’s life.

If you’re not using your pond for winter activities, keep your Airmax® Aeration System operating all season long so your fish will survive a winter fish kill caused by lack of oxygen. Don’t forget to move your diffuser plates out of the deepest water. This will give your finned friends a safe zone and prevent the super-cooling effect that happens in the chilled winter water.

Pond Talk: What are your favorite wintertime sports?

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Can I move my diffuser plates all to the shallow end of the pond so I can skate on the other side? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Can I move my diffuser plates all to the shallow end of the pond so I can skate on the other side?

Q: Can I move my diffuser plates all to the shallow end of the pond so I can skate on the other side?

Adam – Locust Valley, NY

A: Though it would be nice to have the best of both worlds, a pond that’s aerated with diffuser plates is not safe for ice skating. Here’s why:

The reason you run a diffuser through the winter is to aerate the pond and move the water surface to maintain a hole in the ice, allowing for gas exchange. This ensures the water in your pond is well-circulated and your game fish and other underwater inhabitants have enough oxygen to get them through the cold season.

The trouble is that the ice that forms on the surface of water that has been moving for even a short time can be porous and not suitable for skating. Even movement on one end of the pond and not the other can make the ice at the edges unsafe.

If you want to use your pond for skating, plan in advance. Before the ice forms:

  1. Shut your aeration system down completely. It’s critical to do this before the ice starts to build on your pond’s or lake’s surface for the safety of those who will skate on the pond.
  2. Stow components away. Your airline and plate may stay in the pond, but the system’s cabinet and compressor should be stored indoors to prevent condensation and rusting.
  3. Have an emergency plan, just in case. While you’re prepping your lake for ice skating fun, now’s a good time to make sure you have water safety items available, too, like a Taylor Made Life Ring. If the ice breaks, a safety preserver like this can save someone’s life.

Even if ice skating isn’t your thing, it’s still important to follow this all-or-nothing aeration strategy. Running your system “part time” could cause condensation in the unit from the hot compressor cooling, causing rust to form. It could also allow moisture to get into the airline, which could then freeze.

Bottom line: If you plan on skating on your pond or running your aeration system “part time” for whatever reason, it’s best to shut it down completely. Otherwise, keep it running all season to ensure good water quality for your fishes.

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite wintertime activity at your pond or lake?

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Join over 60,000 fellow pond owners and receive our Weekly Pond Talk every Saturday.

 

If I’m going to shut my aerator down for the winter, when should I do it? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: If I’m going to shut my aerator down for the winter, when should I do it?

Q: If I’m going to shut my aerator down for the winter, when should I do it?

Syd – Jackson, WY

A: Ice skating, hockey, curling, broomball, ice fishing—part of the joy of having your own pond or lake is all the wintertime sports that can be played on the ice. These frosty, fun activities are the main reason why folks shut down their aerator for the winter, as keeping one running will create a hole in the ice and make the ice unstable.

If you plan to turn your lake into an ice rink this year, turn off, pull out and store your aerator before the ice begins to form. Why? Because if ice that forms on the water surface has been moving for even a short time, it can be porous and not suitable for skating. Even movement on one end of the lake and not the other can make the ice at the edges unsafe.

Here’s the shutdown process we recommend:

  1. Unplug and shut your aeration system down completely. It’s critical to do this before the ice starts to build on your pond’s or lake’s surface for the safety of those who will skate on the pond.
  2. Stow the cabinet and compressor away. Your airline and plate may stay in the pond, but the system’s cabinet and compressor should be stored indoors to keep dry and prevent condensation and rusting.
  3. Cover flex tube and airlines ends. Doing so will prevent debris from entering and plugging up the airlines.
  4. Have an emergency plan, just in case. While you’re prepping your lake for ice skating fun, now’s a good time to make sure you have water safety items available, too, like a Life Ring. If the ice breaks, a safety preserver like this can save someone’s life.

If you’re not using your pond for winter activities, keep your Airmax® Aeration System operating all season long so your fish will survive a winter fish kill caused by lack of oxygen. Don’t forget to move your diffuser plates out of the deepest water. This will give your finned friends a safe zone and prevent the super-cooling effect that happens in the chilled winter water.

Pond Talk: What are your favorite wintertime sports?

Be Prepared For Any Scenario - Taylor Made Life Rings

 

Enjoy this article?
Join over 60,000 fellow pond owners and receive our Weekly Pond Talk every Saturday.

 

I think my pond is spring-fed. If I shut down my aeration system, will the pond freeze enough for me to skate? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I think my pond is spring-fed. If I shut down my aeration system, will the pond freeze enough for me to skate?

Q: I think my pond is spring-fed. If I shut down my aeration system, will the pond freeze enough for me to skate?

Timothy – Newton, WI

A: Skating is a winter favorite for many people – and it’s even better when you’re doing it on your own pond or lake. Before we dive into answering your question, however, let’s go through the differences between a spring-fed pond and a catch basin pond.

Catch Basin or Spring Fed?

A catch basin pond is a reservoir filled with precipitation runoff from the surrounding area. The volume rises and falls depending on rainfall and snow melt; in the winter, when conditions are right and temperatures are below freezing, an unaerated pond like this makes a great skating rink.

A spring-fed pond, however, is fed by a spring or ground water. It keeps the pond’s water level fairly consistent, regardless of rainfall, but the moving water created by the spring could cause dangerous conditions – even if the aeration system is shut down for the season.

Stay Safe on the Ice

If you discover your pond is indeed fed by a spring and has constant water movement, follow these Ice Safety Tips before trying to use the ice rink for recreation:

  • Wait for Extended Cold Temps: Spring-fed ponds will take longer to freeze, so be sure temperatures are below freezing for two to three weeks before testing the ice formation. Remember that wind and snow coverage will also affect ice formation and its integrity.
  • Test Ice Thickness: Once you’ve given the water time to freeze and the ice time to form, the next step is to verify the ice sheet’s thickness. You can either drill or cut samples—but make sure you do so in multiple locations as you work your way toward the center of the pond as the water won’t necessarily freeze evenly.
  • Stay Far from Moving Water: Water current and movement will also affect ice formation, so steer clear from any inflow and overflow areas where water movement will weaken the ice.
  • Shut Off Aeration: Of course, plan to turn off your aeration system before the ice starts forming on your pond. The aerator will agitate the water, preventing it from forming into a solid, safe sheet of ice.
  • Be Prepared: In case someone accidentally falls through the ice, don’t venture out on your own, and always make sure you have a life ring or floatation device within reach.

Winter recreation – skating, hockey, ice fishing and more! – is one of the joys of owning your own pond or lake, but always use common sense when venturing out. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Pond Talk: What winter sports do you enjoy on your frozen pond?

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How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond – Part 3 | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond - Part 3

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond

Part 3: Maintaining Your Ice Rink

Congratulations! If you’ve followed our series on how to make an ice rink on your pond, you’re well on your way to creating a winter-sports wonderland for you and your family. Your rink will provide hours of entertainment all season long – as long as you keep it maintained.

How do you keep your rink glassy smooth? You don’t need a Zamboni, but you do need to do some regular scraping, sweeping and flooding to resurface and prime the ice. Here’s our three-step solution for maintaining a perfect surface on your rink.

Step 1: Clear the Surface

First, clear the entire surface of the ice with a broom, a flat head metal shovel and ice scraper. Sweep and shovel off the snow, and scrape down and remove all bits of ice and snow as they will freeze during the flooding process and create imperfections on the surface. Dips and holes are OK because they’ll fill with water, but lumps and bumps are not.

Step 2: Flood the Rink

Next, flood the rink with water. Rather than use a sprayer nozzle, which can cause a pitted and rough ice from all the water droplets hitting the surface, let the water flow directly from the hose and allow it to evenly cover the entire rink.If possible, use warm water to flood the area. Just like in a Zamboni, the warm water melts the surface of ice, correcting imperfections and allowing it to freeze smoothly. You can either fill buckets with warm water from your bathtub and slowly pour the water over the ice, or you can use an outdoor faucet with a thermostatically controlled hose, like a Thermo-Hose™, to keep water flowing out to the pond.

Step 3: Use When Cold.

With your rink resurfaced and smoother than a pane of glass, you want to keep it that way, right? Before you cut into the ice with your blades, consider the temperatures outside. Avoid using the rink during mild weather when your skates do significant damage to the ice. Instead, use the rink when it’s cold enough outside to keep that slick surface intact.

Skate Away!

Now that you’ve learned how to grow good ice rink ice, how to set up and create a winter wonderland, and how to maintain the rink all season long, it’s time to get busy making a rink of your own. Be safe, and enjoy your very own icy paradise!

In case you missed out, check out Part 1: Understanding How Ice Forms and Part 2: Creating Your Winter Wonderland.

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How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond – Part 2 | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond - Part 2

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond

Part 2: Creating Your Winter Wonderland

A thick, solid, strong and dense ice sheet on your pond or lake means you’ll have some cold-weather fun on your skates this winter. But how do you determine if that ice is safe to hold an ice skater, a hockey team or a truck to transport all their gear?

In this second part of our three-part series on how to make an ice rink on your pond, you’ll learn how to identify the perfect spot for your rink, how to measure your ice sheet’s thickness, how to create a glassy smooth skating surface, and how to build your winter wonderland.

Thick and Blue, Tried and True…

You’ve been watching your ice sheet develop over the fall and winter, and you think it’s ready to be fabricated into a fantastic ice rink. The first step is to identify an area on your pond or lake with the best ice. What does that look like? It should be:

  • Thick and strong. By “thick,” we mean inches of solid ice – up to 12 to 15 inches, depending on your plans for the rink. Some general guidelines are outlined below:
    • 3 inches or less: Not safe, so stay off the ice.
    • 4 inches: Suitable for ice fishing, cross-country skiing and walking (about 200 pounds).
    • 5 inches: Safe for a snowmobile or ATV (about 800 pounds).
    • 8 to 12 inches: OK for a car or group of people (about 1,500 to 2,000 pounds).
    • 12 to 15 inches: Suitable for a light pickup truck or a van.
  • Solid, blue to clear. This is high density, very strong and safe ice when thick enough. Areas that appear light gray to black, white to opaque, mottled or slushy are unsafe and should be avoided. Also stay away from areas with cracks or breaks, ice that appears to have thawed and refrozen, and abnormal surfaces you haven’t seen before, like ridges caused by currents or winds.
  • Located away from inlets and outlets. Moving water affects the integrity of the ice, so avoid areas near inlets/outlets and springs.

Before you go out on the ice, follow safety protocols: Tell someone where you’re going, dress accordingly, wear a floatation device, carry a change of clothing and an emergency kit in a waterproof bag. When inspecting the ice, remember this rhyme: “Thick and blue, tried and true; thin and crispy, way too risky.”

Checking the Ice

So how do you check your ice sheet’s thickness and quality? You have three options: an ice chisel, an ice auger and a cordless drill. You’ll use one of these tools – along with a tape measure, of course – to carve a hole in the ice and check on what’s happening below the surface.

An ice chisel is your most basic ice-checking tool. It’s a metal rod with a sharp, flat blade welded onto one end. You drive the chisel into the ice using a stabbing motion until you create a hole. *This option may not be the best if you have fish. Pounding on the ice can cause fish stress.

Augers drill a hole in the ice via a spiraling blade that’s rotated by hand or powered by an electric or gas motor. Hand augers are inexpensive, lightweight and quiet to operate. Electric augers are also quiet, but they require less manual labor to operate. Gas augers blast through the ice fastest, but they’re heavy, noisy and more costly than hand or electric models.

A 7.2-volt cordless drill with a long, five-eighths-inch wood auger bit will drive through 8 inches of ice in less than 30 seconds. It’s the most efficient way to get the job done.

Once you have made a hole in the ice, measure its thickness with a tape measure. Put the tape measure into the hole and hook the bottom edge of the ice before taking a reading. While you’re there, inspect the quality of the ice. It should be dense, blue and thick – at least 4 inches.

Create a Glassy Smooth Surface

Now that you have identified the perfect spot for your rink, it’s time to prep the surface. First, check the weather to make sure below-freezing temperatures are forecasted for the next five nights. Then, gather some gear, including a flat-head shovel, a pickaxe or hatchet, and a bucket or garden hose, head out to the rink site and get to work:

  1. Stake out your skating area. A 50-foot by 100-foot rink is plenty of space to start with, particularly on a smaller pond. The area can be expanded as needed.
  2. Shovel the entire surface Next, using your flat nose shovel, push the snow from side to side in the middle of the ice, and then from the middle out to the ends.
  3. Strategically pile up the snow. Create seating areas, hockey goals and some backstops at either end of the rink.
  4. Access some water. You’ll need water to pour onto the surface of your rink, so break through the ice with your hatchet or pick axe to create an opening large enough for a bucket or garden hose. Build a ring of snow around the hole for future reference.
  5. Ice the surface Fill your bucket with pond water and pour it onto the exposed ice sheet. If you’re using a hose, siphon the water and distribute it evenly on the surface. Repeat until you’ve evenly covered the area with water.
  6. Freeze and repeat.. Let the pond ice freeze overnight. Return to the pond the next day and repeat the process for five nights.

Before long, you’ll have a smooth, solid ice rink that’ll provide hours of fun for you and your friends.

Remember: Safety First

Despite all your careful and diligent rink-building efforts, it’s important to remember that there’s no absolute guarantee that the ice is safe. Accidents can happen. Be proactive by installing a life ring nearby, and providing a first aid kit, blanket and other emergency essentials just in case someone does fall through the ice.

If you missed it, check out Part 1 – Understanding How Ice Forms and Part 3 – Maintaining Your Ice Rink.

Create A Smooth Skating Surface