Minnesota DNR: Stay off the ice for now

Despite some cold weather this month, the Minnesota DNR is urging residents to stay off the ice until more has formed.

In a release Monday, the DNR said the ice thickness is still “highly variable” around the state. Emergency crews have already responded to incidences of anglers fallen through thin ice or being stranded on broken off ice sheets this month.

Two men were found dead in an apparent ice fishing accident on Fish Trap Lake in Morrison County last year. (Morrison County Sheriff's Office / FOX 9)

The DNR says a minimum of 4 inches of new, clear ice is required for ice fishing. The department also recommends checking ice thickness every 150 feet.

“It will take another several consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures before enough solid ice has formed to support foot traffic,” said the release. “And even longer before all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles should be on the ice.”

Col. Rodmen Smith, of the DNR’s enforcement division, said getting on the ice early in the season can be worn as a “badge of honor” for some, but he urged that “the risk to you and others isn’t worth the reward.”

The DNR recommends the following guidelines to minimize risk while on ice:

  • Always wear a life jacket or float coat on the ice (except when in a vehicle).
  • Carry ice picks, rope, an ice chisel and tape measure.
  • Check ice thickness at regular intervals; conditions can change quickly.
  • Bring a cell phone or personal locator beacon.
  • Don’t go out alone; let someone know about trip plans and expected return time.
  • Before heading out, inquire about conditions and known hazards with local experts.

The DNR’s ice thickness guidelines for new, clear ice are as follows:

  • 4 inches for ice fishing or other activities on foot.
  • 5-7 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle.
  • 8-12 inches for a car or small pickup.
  • 12-15 inches for a medium truck.
  • Double these minimums for white or snow-covered ice.