Sheriff warns 'No fish is worth the risk' after people fell through ice on northern MN lakes

Three people fell through the ice in two separate incidents Monday.

It's the end of March, and if ice is still on a lake it's not safe.

That's the message officials in northern Minnesota have to the people thinking about going out on the ice after three people fell through the ice in two separate incidents on Monday.

The first ice rescue happened around 2:16 p.m. Monday. The Cass County Sheriff's Office says it got a report of a three-wheeler that fell through the ice on Big Portage Lake in rural Backus. When deputies arrived, they discovered a person who tried to help the driver of the ATV was also in the water.

The Walker Fire Department had to use a hovercraft to get the men to shore. They were taken to a St. Cloud hospital for treatment; their conditions aren't known.

Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch says first responders encountered "very poor ice conditions" and he warns that travel is unsafe on all area lakes because ice conditions are quickly deteriorating.

The second incident happened on Gladstone Lake in Nisswa around 3 p.m., the Brainerd Dispatch reports. An angler fell through the ice there and a neighbor went out to help get him out of the water. Eventually the Nisswa Fire Department responded to get them both off the ice.

Please be extremely cautious about venturing onto the ice this time of year. While there are spots that still have...

Posted by Nisswa Fire Department on Monday, March 27, 2017

Capt. Scott Goddard of the Crow Wing Sheriff's Office told the Brainerd Dispatch that Monday's ice rescues could have turned tragic, and people who go out on the ice need to remember they're putting themselves, first responders and anyone else who goes out to try and help them at risk.

"No fish is worth the risk," Goddard told the paper.

Officials warned allwinteraboutunsafe ice conditions due to the abnormally warm weather we had. Lisa Dugan, with the Minnesota DNR, told GoMN "this was a very short, very unreliable ice season," noting ice formed let and went through a lot of freeze-thaw cycles, which produced milky, porous ice that needed to be double the recommended thickness for going out on the ice.

Dugan says in many cases, the ice cleared off lakes three weeks early. The DNR's website shows many lakes in central and southern Minnesota are already free of ice – or are pretty close to it.

Four people died on lakes this winter. There were two watercraft fatalities and two ice-related drownings this winter, Dugan said. In the winter of 2015-16, no ice-related fatalities were reported, according to the Minnesota DNR.

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