As unseasonably warm weather quickly deteriorates ice conditions on lakes across much of the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources urges lake recreationists to take caution.
Conservation Officer Bret Grundmeier said of the unseasonably warm weather and ice fishing, "Last week’s warm weather caused the ice around fish houses to get very dangerous. The warm sun and unseasonably warm weather reflects off the south side of fish houses and causes ice right next to fish shelters to degrade extremely fast. Then we got fairly heavy rains over President’s day holiday and that really put a hurt on the ice quality."
He added that the lake ice has turned dark and almost black and that’s what we have in many areas now. "Dark ice is poor quality ice, said Grundmeier. "Lakes are still fishable, but if anglers don’t test the ice, they will find themselves breaking through in some areas. The date for fish houses to be off the ice in our area of the state is by midnight on March 6th.
He cautioned that river ice is pulling away from shore and some waterways are already breaking up and flowing.
The mandatory date for ice shelter removal is March 6th for the southern part of Minnesota and March 20th for the northern part of the state. However, the county Sheriffs may prohibit or restrict the use of motorized vehicles if dangerous ice conditions are present. The DNR recommends no vehicle traffic and the removal of ice shelters on lakes that are being affected by the thaw.
Ice thickness recommendations can be found at www.mndnr.gov/icesafety; however, those are minimum recommendations. Ice that has thawed and refrozen is only half as strong as new, clear ice. Please double the recommended numbers should you chose to recreate on unsafe ice.
The Minnesota DNR tells people to onsider the temperature, not the date on the calendar when it comes to “spring” ice.
Over the past week, public safety officials have reported more than a half-dozen ice emergencies across the state involving anglers and snowmobile or ATV riders breaking through thin or weak ice.
“The freeze-thaw cycle produces extremely weak ice that is dangerously deceptive in its appearance and how thick it measures,” said Lisa Dugan, recreation safety outreach coordinator with the DNR’s boat and water program. “Considering the continuous number of days with above freezing temperatures the ice is rapidly melting, even clearing in many parts of the state.”
“We’ve had reports of anglers falling through ice that was just fine an hour earlier. That’s how fast things can change,” Dugan said. “If you do choose to venture onto unsafe ice, use extreme caution. Use a chisel to check the strength of the ice frequently and be sure to wear a life jacket or float coat.”
According to the DNR, many lakes and rivers in southern and central Minnesota are on their way to being ice-free, going from ice-covered to open water over the course of a day or two. As the sun gains strength with the onset of spring, ice conditions can change dramatically within a matter of hours even when the air temperature may remain cold.
Dugan also emphasized doubling the DNR’s ice thickness recommendations for ice that has thawed and refrozen. Old ice is only half as strong as new, clear ice.
For ice shelter removal information visit http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/shelter.html