WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) -- Special — In Minnesota, as well as in other northern states, ice fishing is a big industry. Whether you are sitting on a five gallon pail on a local prairie lake or in a luxury ice house on Lake of the Woods. Minnesotans take to the lakes as soon as it is safe to walk on the ice. But according to the Minnesota DNR there is no such thing as safe ice.
The DNR has posted a card with recommended ice thickness guidelines for ice anglers. They suggest before venturing on to the ice on foot, a minimum of 4 inches of clear ice; five inches for snowmobiles and ATVs; eight to 12 inches for cars or small pickups; twelve to 15 inches for medium trucks.
Although there has been 217 ice related fatalities that number has steadily declined since 1976. In the first 7 year period since 1976 there were 68 deaths recorded. The next three seven year periods had 42, 40, and 43 deaths respectfully.
The good news is the past seven years that figure has dropped by 50 percent with 22 deaths slightly less than four deaths per year.
In the southwest corner of the state 10 deaths were recorded in the same time period. The last one occurred in 2002 in Jackson county on Round lake when an ATV broke through the ice.
Most of the deaths occurred when the vehicles, they were driving, broke through the ice, the rest were when people broke through the ice or fell into open water.
Open water is often found in rivers, or lakes with springs in them. Of course in the southern prairie lakes, quite a few have aeration systems installed to keep the water open to allow aquatic plants to absorb sunlight which creates oxygen back into the water.
The local sportsman club (Red Rock Sportsman Club) installs aeration systems in Bean Lake, and South and North Double lakes. The club announced the first week in December, in an ad in the Sentinel Tribune, that the aerators would be in operation later in December.
The ad warns people in the area to use caution when going on the ice where these aerators are installed. Warning signs are posted around the perimeter of the aeration areas.
Other than avoiding putting yourself and others in danger by going on unsafe ice, the DNR has a plan for escape from the water and vehicles.
To get more information about ice safety from what to do if you do go through the ice, to safety tips to avoid going through the ice in the first place, go to the Minnesota DNR web site. (Statistics taken from the Minnesota DNR website)
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