EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As temperatures decline, ice is forming on bodies of water across West Michigan, bringing out fisherman and winter sports fans alike.

“To stay safe out here, you just walk along with this bar and make sure it can support your weight,” said fisherman Jackson Van Houten. “Even though it’s freezing cold and we gotta wait, it’s worth it.”

Reeds Lake is an active spot for cold activities like ice fishing.

“The weather this year really hasn’t been cooperating for ice fishing. It’s been a really warm January and I’ve just been waiting,” said Van Houten.

With the cold snap after a relatively warm January comes the danger of falling through the ice. Fishermen like Van Houten come thoroughly prepared. 

“I use this tool right here called a spud bar and I hit it really hard in front of me to see if it will break through the ice and if it doesn’t break through, I know it can support my weight,” he said.

Knowing what type of ice water you’re dealing with is vital. 

“We definitely recommend not going on the river ice because it’s unpredictable and always moving,” said Richard Clark, a battalion chief with the Grand Rapids Fire Department. 

Falling through the ice can be deadly but there are ways to prevent tragedy. 

“There are a lot of things fishermen can actually do when they fall in like me. I wear a jacket, I have my bar, and by the way, I always usually fish with a buddy,” said Van Houten.

A new dive and rescue team with the Grand Rapids Fire Department is trained to go under the ice.

“If you see somebody or something fall through, a dog or a person, you can throw them something. But don’t try to go get them because if they fell through, you are going to fall through,” said Clark. 

If you’re out on lake ice, “Just make sure that you have things that can help you get out like spikes. Tie them up around you. That way, if you do fall in, you have a way to get out of the ice and make sure you spread yourself out if you’re starting to crack and go through,” said Andrew Nowak, captain of the GRFD dive and rescue team. 

If you fall through the ice, try to roll onto the ice you’ve already walked on. Prepare for the cold and be ready to call for help.

“Know that, at least in the city of Grand Rapids, you have a full-time professional fire department and we are going to be there within a couple of minutes. Don’t give us another victim. So, if you see somebody or something, a dog, or anything, just let us know, we’re coming,” said Clark.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Van Houten’s last name. We regret the error, which has since been corrected.