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Video: Safety tips for early-season ice fishing

Nov 17, 2018 05:02PM ● By Editor

Early Ice Fishing Safety Tips

From the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 

With daytime temperatures still climbing above freezing, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reminding outdoor enthusiasts to stay clear of early ice and use extreme caution when recreating on dangerously cold water.

Officials warn anglers to stay off the ice until at least 4 inches of new, clear ice is present.

“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 foot traffic, and even longer before snowmobilers should be on the ice.”

Last winter, five people died in Minnesota after breaking through the ice, including one toddler. 

“In addition to checking conditions locally and being prepared with an ice safety kit, anyone recreating on hard water should be wearing a life jacket,” Block said. “A life jacket is the one piece of equipment that exponentially increases your odds of not drowning from cold water shock, hypothermia or exhaustion should you fall through the ice.”

Open water danger

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 Debbie Munson Badini, DNR boat and water safety outreach coordinator. “Air temperatures have been relatively mild for December, 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.”

State statistics show that one-third of boating fatalities typically occur during the “cold water season,” and that in the vast majority of cases the cause of death is drowning due to not wearing a life jacket.

General ice safety guidelines

No ice can ever be considered “safe ice,” but following these guidelines can help 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 where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Always wear a life jacket on the ice (except when in a vehicle). Before heading out, inquire about conditions and known hazards.

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

4 inches for ice fishing or other activities on foot. 5 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.