With spring melt underway, DNR urges caution on lakes and rivers

Published 8:45 am Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Warm weather and significant rainfall in parts of the state have resulted in slush and standing water on many water bodies, leading to rapid ice deterioration and making travel over the ice difficult and extremely unsafe, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

While most lakes across the state remain ice-covered, strengthening spring sun combined with previous precipitation means ice conditions can change dramatically within a matter of hours, even when the air temperature remains low. Ice this time of year is dangerously deceptive in its appearance and thickness. Snow ice, which looks milky and has been through the freeze-thaw cycle, is only half as strong as new, clear ice.

“We’ve had reports of anglers falling through ice that was just fine an hour earlier – that’s how fast things can change,” said Lisa Dugan, recreation safety outreach coordinator for the DNR Enforcement Division. “If you choose to venture onto late-season ice, use extreme caution.”

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Dugan advised staying away from channels and areas with a current or runoff, as they tend to be the first spots with open water. Wear a life jacket or float coat and remember no fish is worth the risk of losing a life.

There have already been five ice-related fatalities reported during the 2018-19 ice season, and each year people fall through the ice as winter turns to spring.

“As long as there is ice in Minnesota, it’s imperative people don’t let their guard down when it comes to safety,” Dugan said.

Anyone who heads onto the ice this time of year should use a chisel to check the strength of the ice frequently, have ice picks along, and be sure to wear a life jacket or float coat. Adults also should be vigilant about keeping children away from ice and open water unless they’re accompanied by a responsible adult.

For more information about staying safe on the ice, visit mndnr.gov/icesafety.