CHIPPEWA FALLS — Despite consistent below-average temperatures, there is still open water on some area lakes, and people should be cautious before going onto ice.

Bernie Scherer has lived along Lake Wissota since 1970. Typically, the area where Big Lake Wissota and Little Lake Wissota meet near Highway X is frozen over. That isn’t the case this year, Scherer said.

“It’s been way over 2 acres of open water,” Scherer said. “We’d had a couple hundred geese sitting by the open water.”

Scherer said he’s concerned about ice fishermen and snowmobile riders assuming that area is safe ice because it is typically already frozen solid.

“This is the time of year that enthusiasts are getting out on the lake,” Scherer said.

Even if it closes up today or in the next few days, Scherer said, it will still be thin ice and should be treated cautiously. He isn’t sure why it hasn’t frozen over yet.

“We had such a wet summer and fall, it may have created a spring,” he said.

Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk said it is a good reminder for anyone going onto ice to be cautious.

“(Scherer) lives out there — he knows the lake,” Kowalczyk said. Sportsmen, especially ice fishermen, want to be out there first. But you’ve got to use common sense. Ice can be stable in one part of the lake, but a few feet away, it can be really thin.”

Kowalczyk said he was aware of people driving ATVs on another lake in the county last weekend.

“An ATV, per square foot, is heavier than a car,” he said.

Kowalczyk recommended that people going on the ice have a cellphone and also spikes to assist in climbing out of water and back onto the ice.

“Once you hit the water, it’s a shock to the system, and you don’t have very long,” Kowalczyk said. “A good rule of thumb is don’t go alone.”