Over-eager anglers are already venturing out on to the ice — a decision that's a bit premature in many areas of the state.
The weekly conservation officer report from the Minnesota DNR is littered with warnings about thin or questionable ice, with CO Nicholas Prachar noting they've heard "numerous" reports of people falling through ice on lakes in the Blackduck area.
"Be certain the ice is safe before venturing onto it," Prachar writes.
In fact, "ice" is mentioned just over 100 times in the weekly report, with warnings including:
- "Ice conditions continue to vary and caution is advised when venturing out on the ice."
- "Ice conditions are still very dynamic. Use extreme caution if you choose to venture out onto the ice."
- "A reminder to check ice conditions, go slowly and prepare for the worst when fishing early ice."
- "Ice is never safe, and anyone heading out should always rely on their own observations, field testing and judgement."
Of course, the safety level of ice depends on many factors, including size of the body of water, type of body of water, location within the state, and more.
CO Keith Olson, for example, noted "[l]ocal inland lakes" around Lake Superior "are showing good clear ice conditions, ranging from 4 to 7 inches." And CO Mark Mathy, in the Cass Lake area, said ice of 2-4 inches is being seen on small lakes.
The overwhelming message at this point, however, is that ice conditions are currently unpredictable from one lake to another, and can vary greatly even within the same body of water.
As the DNR put it in an alert last week, ice thickness right now is "subject to the whims of Mother Nature." The agency is reminding everyone that ice is never 100% safe, while laying out the best steps anglers can take to be prepared. That includes:
- Always wearing a life jacket or float coat when on foot on the ice
- Bringing ice picks, rope, an ice chisel and tape measure
- Checking ice thickness at regular intervals of 150 feet max
- Bringing a cellphone or personal locator beacon
- Always telling someone your plans, and never going out on the ice alone
- Checking with local experts about conditions and possible hazards
Here are the DNR's ice safety guidelines.
Temps reaching the 50s in parts of Minnesota this week won't make the ice that is out there any safer. Here's the latest forecast from meteorologist Sven Sundgaard.