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Boreal Community Media

Early fishing safety reminders after Cook County's first water fatality of the year

May 18, 2023 09:48AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Brady Rogers

From the Cook County Sheriff's Department and Cook County, Minnesota - May 18, 2023

This year, we have gone immediately from winter to semi-spring, to summer, back to spring, and now we are moving towards summer again. The glorious time of year that many wait for is the Minnesota fishing opener, and each fisher-person longs for open water so they can get to their favorite lake. This is a very dangerous time of year to be on the water, and unfortunately, Cook County has experienced the first water fatality of the year. 

Here are some things to consider when you jump in a boat or canoe:

Water temperature 

The ice has just gone off the lakes and the water is very cold. It may appear to be fine, but with the water temperature hovering between 35-40 degrees, the amount of time one can spend in the water before becoming hypothermic is decreased substantially.  Even if you are wearing a PFD (personal flotation device), you may have only minutes in the water before you begin to lose the function of extremities, and the ability to help yourself.

Fish with others

Fish with a partner and remain in sight of each other. If someone experiences trouble, the other person can hopefully get to them in time and help.


Watch the wind and be aware of your location on any lake. It is easy to get distracted while fishing and looking at the amazing landscape. This is especially true while fishing from a canoe. If you find yourself in turbulent water, remain calm, try to keep the bow pointed into the wind, do not navigate parallel to the waves, even if it takes you in the wrong direction. You can always regroup and get your bearings after the threat of active water has passed.

Bring extra items

Have an extra set of clothes, matches, tinder, and some type of sustenance with you no matter if you are going out for the day or for a couple of hours. Keep these items in something that is waterproof so if you need them, they are operational for you. Dry clothes and a fire can be life savers after you have been in the water, not only early in the year, but anytime.

Tell someone your plans

Tell someone where you plan on going. I know everyone wants to keep their secret lakes in the dark, but you can probably find one trustworthy person in your circle who will carry your honey hole to the grave with them, and that person may be the only one who can send rescue teams to your location.

Know your limitations

Finally, know your limitations. If you are a novice sailor, don’t go somewhere that will require intermediate or expert knowledge to navigate the waters. Recognize your physical, mental, and emotional margins. If you choose to test them, be prepared to get yourself out of most situations that arise. We have top-notch emergency responder staff in Cook County and there may be a chance that you place a rescuer in harm’s way while trying to save you. Our First Responders, Search and Rescue Staff, and Fire Fighting personnel are all volunteers. They have jobs, families, bills, plans, etc. They place themselves in harm’s way without recompense so that others can go home. Let’s make sure they go home too.


About Cook County, MN 

Cook County encompasses the sovereign nation of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa; the City of Grand Marais; the Townships of Lutsen, Tofte and Schroeder; and unincorporated areas in the easternmost part of Minnesota’s North Shore. Cook County Government values transparency and strives to deliver superior services and programs in a fiscally responsible way. We value the dignity of all County residents and seek to create a community that provides opportunity for all. Many of our offices are in the Cook County Courthouse at 411 W 2nd St, Grand Marais 55604. Other departments and facilities, such as the Airport, Community Center, Highway and Sheriff are located nearby. Call 218-387-3000 or visit:  

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