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Don't go onto the ice on Chautauqua Lake.

That warning was issued Tuesday by Chautauqua County Sheriff's Deputy Marty Bova, who supervises the department's Navigation Team.

After several consecutive days of subfreezing temperatures, everyone from snowmobilers to ice fishermen is happy about lake conditions, but Bova is concerned because of the uneven thickness of the ice.

He cited several reasons for the depth variations.

"One of those (is) the runoff from the highways, which is very apparent when they use salt on the roadways, and it gets into the collection ditches and ends up in the water. That can affect the ice.

"The ice can also be affected just by the weather conditions, and it can be affected by the fact that as the ice forms on the lake and it covers the weed life -- which everyone knows we have plenty of in the summer. Those weeds begin to rot and decompose, and as they decompose, they generate air bubbles which weakens the ice."

In addition, Bova said, areas around canals can be weakened because of moving water. Thus, the ice may be 4 inches thick in one spot, but only 1 inch thick 10 feet away.

People, as well as snowmobiles, have been spotted on the lake recently. Bova said he saw snowmobile tracks on the lake Tuesday.

"Whether it's to take a shortcut to a different spot, or what their reasoning is, there have been a lot of people venturing out onto the ice," he said. "It makes me a little bit nervous."

Bova said he does not know the general depth of the ice. "The only absolute is, if you stay off the ice, you're safe," he said.

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