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Our Opinion: Be safe while venturing out on the ice

Yes, we’ve had a few weeks of cold nights, and that’s helped make ice, but above freezing daily high temperatures can make ice thickness uneven.

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They say the only certainties in life are death and taxes.

We’d add a caveat to that idiom — death, taxes and ice anglers heading out on area lakes shortly after first ice is formed.

To say it’s a time-honored tradition in the Brainerd lakes area is an understatement — every year anglers can be seen on the ice shortly after it’s formed on smaller, shallower lakes. For the past couple of weeks there have been numerous sightings of anglers out fishing, often using portable fish houses. We would venture to guess they are not amateurs; they understand the risks and know what they’re doing.

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Still, as we do every year, we want to caution anyone who is, or who is thinking about, drilling a few holes and going after fish. Yes, we’ve had a few weeks of cold nights, and that’s helped make ice, but above freezing daily high temperatures — we've had at least three days this week over 40 degrees — can make ice thickness uneven.

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Anglers and others who recreate on the ice should stay on shore until there’s at least 4 inches of new, clear ice, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommends. Anytime people are on the ice, they should check its thickness every 150 feet. People should check ice thickness for themselves rather than deciding to walk on the ice based on what they’ve heard or read.

As always, remember the old saying, “There is no safe ice.”

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The DNR further offers these tips:

  • Check the thermometer, not the calendar. Air temperature and recent weather patterns can significantly impact ice quality. Just because the ice was safe on a certain date last year doesn’t mean it will be safe this year.

  • Check with local experts and sources for current ice reports and to learn about any known hazardous areas.

  • Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. Carry a cellphone and/or personal locator beacon with you in case of trouble.

  • Wear a life jacket or float coat when you are on the ice (except when in a vehicle). If you fall in, a foam-filled vest or coat will keep your head above water and provide some insulation against the effects of cold water.

  • Always bring an ice safety kit with you on the ice: rope, ice picks, ice chisel or drill and tape measure. Check ice thickness at regular intervals. Know how to use the ice picks to rescue yourself and the rope to rescue others.

Ice fishing is a great outdoor activity in the late fall and winter months and we would encourage everyone to give it a try — but please use all caution and be safe out there while doing so.
If you don’t feel comfortable with where the ice thickness is so far this year, don’t go out. And if you are among the brave on this early season ice, the best of luck to you.

Related Topics: BRAINERD DISPATCH
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Drivers – please be careful out there. Don’t be a statistic. Don’t make bad choices that can end a life.