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The temperatures across the Midwest have been warming a little as winter loosens its grip. When the temperatures cool back down and it snows this makes safe ice more of a concern!

Even though many lakes still have ice remember that there is open water on many rivers such as the Mississippi and St. Croix. The recent snowfall does not mean safe ice either, in fact, the snow weighs down on the ice and insulates the ice, preventing cold air from getting through.

In a recent press release from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Kara Owens DNR boat and water, safety specialist said

“While we have had temperatures in the 20s or 30s that does not mean the ice on a lake, pond or river is safe,” Ownes also stated “The bottom line is it‘s crucial that people do not let their guard down and recognize ice is never 100 percent safe,”

Always check the thickness of the ice before traveling on it especially at this time of year. Check with local bait shops or resorts as well as other ice anglers. Then check for yourself as well. Many factors can influence how thick the ice is.

Some of these factors are:

  • Temperature
  • Snow cover
  • Currents
  • Springs
  • Rough fish

Also, remember that ice is seldom the same thickness throughout a body of water to it is a good idea to check it about every 150 feet. Use an ice chisel, ice auger, or cordless drill to drill the test hole. Insert a tape measure into the hole slowing bring it up until the end catches the bottom edge of the ice.

With the warm temperatures, it may be unsafe to drive a vehicle onto the ice. If you choose to do so drill a hole next to it a cordless drill can be used for this, if the water overflows the top of the whole the ice is sinking and it is advisable to move the vehicle immediately.

Here is a rough guideline for ice safety on White ice or “snow ice”. Remember this ice is only about half as strong as new clear ice.

Danger Thin Ice - Outdoor Newspaper
Always be on the lookout for changing ice conditions. Ice Safety is the most important part of ice fishing. Ice that was safe yesterday may not be safe today.
  • 4″ or less – STAY OFF
  • 8″ – Ice fishing or other activities on foot
  • 10″ – Snowmobile or ATV
  • 16″ – 24″ – Car or small pickup
  • 24″ – 30″ – Medium truck

Again these thicknesses are for “snow ice”, for new clear ice only about half these thicknesses are required for safety.

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There have only been two fatalities caused by falling through the ice or in open water this year in comparison to six ice fatalities last winter (2012-2013). Follow good ice safety practices so you can look forward to another wonderful and exciting ice fishing season next year and enjoy all the great fishing on area lakes streams and rivers throughout the lazy days of the coming spring and summer.

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