DNR: Early Ice is Not Safe, Wear Life Jackets on Cold Water

MINNESOTA – With daytime temperatures still reaching above freezing, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reminding the public to stay clear of early ice and use extreme caution when venturing on dangerously cold waters.

Some locations in northern and western regions of the state have been reporting ice formation, recent fluctuations in temperatures have led to degrading ice conditions and warning from public safety officials to stay off the ice at this time.

“No fish is worth the risk of going through thin ice,” said DNR conservation officer Lt. Adam Block. “At this point, it is going to take several consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures before enough solid ice has formed to support food traffic, and even longer before ATVs and snowmobiles should be on the ice.

Recently, two anglers lost their lives on Upper Red Lake after their ATV broke through thin ice. According to the DNR, several emergency ice rescues have also taken place over the last few weeks.

No ices should ever be considered “safe ice,” but the DNR offers the following safety guidelines to minimize the risk:

  • Carry ice picks, rope, an ice chisel and tape measure.
  • Check ice thickness at regular intervals – conditions can change quickly.
  • Bring a cell phone or personal locator beacon.
  • Don’t go out alone; let someone know the plan and expected return time.
  • Always wear a life jacket on the ice (except when in a vehicle).
  • Before heading out, inquire about conditions and known hazards with local experts.

The minimum ice thickness guidelines for new, clear ice are:

  • 4 inches for ice fishing or other activities on foot.
  • 5-7 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle.
  • 8-12 inches for a car or small pickup.
  • 12-15 inches for a medium truck.
  • Double these minimums for white or snow-covered ice.

Late season anglers, boaters, and paddlers are cautioned that a life jacket is an absolute must on cold water.

“A fall into extremely cold water can incapacitate you within seconds,” said Lisa Dugan, DNR recreation safety outreach coordinator. “Air temperatures have been relatively mild, but don’t let that deceive you. Water temperatures have been relatively mild, but don’t let that deceive you. Water temperatures are dangerously cold across the entire state, which means it’s more important than ever to wear that life jacket.”

So far in 2017, three boaters have died on cold water and 12 total boating fatalities have been reported in the state, according to the DNR.