The water is still pretty cold – so you really should wear a life jacket, DNR says

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Last year, half of all boating and drowning deaths in Minnesota happened in cold water.

As hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans prepare for the fishing opener this weekend – and with the weather on the chilly side – the Minnesota Department of National Resources is reminding boaters to wear life jackets.

While boaters and anglers are encouraged to wear them no matter the temperature, the DNR says life jackets are especially important during "cold water" season.

Usually, 30 percent of boating fatalities in Minnesota occur on cold water, they said.

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Water temperature is still cold

Yes, the weather has been warmer, but water temperatures statewide are still below 70 degrees – cold enough to incapacitate even strong swimmers in less than a minute, officials said.

“The shock of falling into cold water triggers your gasp reflex, which more than likely means inhaling water,” Debbie Munson Badini, boating safety representative with the Minnesota DNR, said in the news release.

In Minnesota, a "readily accessible and wearable life jacket" is required for each person on board a boat, and children under 10 are required to wear one. Boats 16 feet or longer also need a throwable flotation device on board.

And the DNR says you should actually wear the life-saving device – not just have it on the boat. Putting on a life jacket is the one action that "significantly increases" your chances of survival if you fall into cold waters, the release said.

Earlier this month, five anglers were rescued from a sinking boat in central Minnesota – and there was not a single life jacket onboard.

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Men are most often victims

One particular demographic is a high-risk concern: men between the ages of 20-60 are the least likely to wear a life jacket, and the most likely to drown, the DNR says.

“Cold water drowning victims in Minnesota are also much more likely to be anglers than any other type of recreational boater. Add this up, and it’s clear that if male anglers were to put their safety first and put on their life jackets, a significant percentage of boating deaths could easily be prevented," Badini said.

You can learn more about life jacket regulations and boat and water safety here.

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