Always think safety first when recreating on ice

The death of a downstate man and rescue of several others, all of whom broke through ice thought to be safe in recent days, serves to underscore what might be obvious to some, and not so much to others, that despite the recent cold snap, many lakes remain unsafe for fisherman and others to venture out on.

The death and rescues took place Tuesday in the Detroit area, which has experienced a run of sub-freezing tenperatures after weeks of above-normal conditions. That’s the way it’s been in Superiorland, too; it’ll be quite cold one day followed by several additional days of warmer temperatures.

Many experienced ice fisherman know that as a practical matter, “safe ice” is an oxymoron, or fundamental contradition in terms. Any ice can give way, no matter the ambient temperature. Ice thickness and related safety is related to not only temperature but snow depth on the ice and water currents, to name just two influences.

Because of that, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommends a minimum of 4 inches for foot traffic, 5 inches for snowmobiles, up to 12 inches for a car or small pickup or as much as 15 inches for a medium truck.

Ice thickness can be gauged with a chisel, auger or drill. So if recreating on the ice is what you like to do, think safety first.