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home : sports / outdoors : sports/outdoors Monday, March 25, 2019

2/14/2017 1:46:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Ice Safety

By Amy Doeun

It is the time of year when the ice on area lakes and ponds is calling to winter sports enthusiasts. With some safety precautions it can be a fun and enjoyable experience. However care must be taken. Laura Dugan, Safety Education Outreach Coordinator with the Minnesota DNR said that this year while a cold snap in mid December put a pretty good base of ice on the lakes, "but since then we have had a snow and then a snow and a thaw and then rain. This freeze thaw cycle can really weaken the ice." Dugan added that while you cannot tell the thickness of ice just by looking at it that, "white ice or snow covered ice is only half as strong as new blue/black ice."

The DNR website asks the question, "When is ice safe?" and answers it by saying, "No ice is 100 percent safe." It goes on to say, "You can't judge the strength of ice just by its appearance, age, thickness, temperature, or whether or not the ice is covered with snow. Strength is based on all these factors -- plus the depth of water under the ice, size of the water body, water chemistry and currents, the distribution of the load on the ice, and local climatic conditions."

Sambath Lenh's family came from Cambodia before he was born. He was born in Alabama and later moved to Los Angeles. But it was his family's move to Minnesota that gave him a passion for the outdoors. For someone who has grown up in a warm climate it seems unusual that he should be interested in ice fishing. But he said it was an overall love of the outdoors that started with fishing in the summer, then small game hunting, then deer hunting and eventually ice fishing.

He said in a state that is cold for so much of the year it made sense for him to try and find outdoor activities year round. "I wouldn't make it all winter if I didn't have something to do." So he started out with a small pop up tent and basic equipment eventually building to an ice shack complete with beds and a kitchen.

But in years past the ice hasn't been very good. "I am really looking forward to getting out there with my ice house this year. I am hopeful to get good use out of it."

Dugan said that she is also expecting a better year for ice but added, "We are right along with everyone else [in predicting ice thickness]. We don't really know what future weather will be and how it will affect ice. There is supposed to be some cold weather coming up but there are too many variables that can change quickly. Pause and think before you go on ice."

One resource that Dugan highly recommends is local bait shops. They will be more aware of the underlying conditions of the lake like, "is there an aeration system or warm water stream coming into the lake. We always say no fish is worth risking your life for."

Dugan also recommends always having an ice safety kit including ice picks (or nails) and ropes to help you work your way out of the ice.

DNR safety standards say if the ice is 2 inches or less stay off. Four inches of ice can hold activities such as ice fishing on foot, 5 inches will support a snowmobile or ATV, 8-12 a car or small pickup and 12-15 a medium truck. These thicknesses are for new blue/black ice and should be doubled if you have white ice or snow covered ice.

Several tools can be used to check ice thickness including an ice chisel, auger or cordless drill. Simply make a hole in the ice large enough to insert a tape measure, then measure the thickness. The DNR recommends always checking the thickness before you begin winter sports activities like ice fishing.

St. Paul, MN



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