Safety Amidst Varying Ice Conditions

Emily Ness
Updated: January 03, 2020 08:04 PM

Icicles hang from the roofs of homes and buildings, showing evidence of winter. But, within lakes and rivers remain parts that are unfrozen.


“Ice conditions this year have been really poor. You know, we had a good start going for the year and then we got that blizzard and then the snow piled up and the slush started coming,” Tim Wagner, Owner of Hi-Banks Resort said. “I know on Blue Lake a couple vehicles went in the ice I believe it was a couple days ago that they just got those out.”

Ice houses too, including one on Lake Hanska have plunged through the ice. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

“Last year, there were five total ice fishing fatalities and the year before, there was six and all of those fatalities over the last two years have involved either an ATV or a snowmobile,” Lisa Dugan, Recreation Safety Outreach Coordinator for the Minnesota DNR said. “There has been a lot of close calls this year so making sure people take into account the weight of a larger ATV or if they're carrying gear or you know, trailer behind—taking into account all of that extra weight.”

The DNR recommends four inches for ice fishing or other activities on foot, five inches for snowmobiles or ATV’s, 8-12 inches for car or small pickup and 12-15 inches for medium truck. On Fish Lake Friday, the ice was roughly 10 inches thick, making for safe conditions for one angler.

“Probably about that thick,” Jillian Ritsche demonstrated stretching her arms out. “I knew the ice was thick and we weren't that far from the shore.”

Staying close to the shore is one of many words from the wise on weathering these conditions.

“We'll drill some test holes to check the ice thickness, check with the locals here, find out what they're doing. We look for other houses out on the lake, see if anyone else is walking around out there and just kind of go by our experience. If you hear cracking, you get off the ice,” Per Moberg, ice angler said.

The DNR also recommends carrying ice picks to pull yourself out of the ice should you fall through and wearing a life jacket at all times to keep you afloat. Despite inherent danger, ice anglers say that the sport can be fun, safe and rewarding.

“I really like catching fish in the open water or through the ice. I've caught quite a few large Northern’s, large Walleyes, you know in Duluth, outside of Duluth," Pierce Moberg said. "It's a lot of fun."


Emily Ness

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