Deputies: Remove ice houses from Lake Minnetonka as soon as possible, amid thin ice concerns

The rollercoaster weather this week is creating incredibly poor ice conditions. The deadline to remove ice houses from Lake Minnetonka is March 6, but Hennepin County deputies warned anglers not to wait until then.

With the melting and refreezing cycles, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office said ice houses could become stuck on the ice. Deputies said over the last several days, they've responded to multiple incidents of vehicles going through the ice.

For the ice fishers who spend their days out on Phelps Bay, Mother Nature brought conditions that were less than ideal earlier this week.

"We've been fishing. The weather there has been challenging with the rain. Yesterday was a lot of rain," said Jeff Henrichs, owner of Ice Fishing Warriors. "So when I was drilling holes today, I'd say the top eight inches was a little soft."

Matthew Hines and a friend were testing the ice on Lake Minnetonka Wednesday.

"I don't know if I'm willing to risk driving my truck out on the ice," he said.

Deputies spent Wednesday afternoon training Minneapolis firefighters how to use airboats to conduct rescues. Deputy Matthew Patrone warned that the ice forms differently across the lake.

"So you could have a spot where there's 20 inches of ice and then three feet over there could be six inches of ice. You just don't know. So that's why we tell people it's never 100% safe," Patrone said.

The melted snow is sitting on top of the lake creating puddles that look like open water. Patrone said that’s what Minnesotans should avoid.

"The top anywhere between four to six inches of ice is extremely brittle. So it looks cloudy, and it looks almost white. That's very crumbly cracking ice, which is what you're probably going to be falling through if you go through. You should always be looking for really dark clear ice. That's going to be your thickest and strongest ice," he explained.

Patrone said if someone is going to drive on the ice, which deputies don’t recommend, they should keep their windows rolled down and drive slowly. They should also carry enough safety equipment for everyone in the car, including ice picks, blankets and floatation devices, in case they do go through the ice.

The sheriff’s office also wanted Minnesotans to know the channels from one part of the lake to the other always have the thinnest ice.

"I check the ice to make sure everything's safe where I'm driving. Other parts of the lake that I haven't checked – I’m not driving on them," Henrichs said.