Local ice conditions poor
The cold and snowy weather may make it feel like the heart of winter outside, but ice conditions on local waters are still precarious in some areas.
The weather so far this season has created low-quality ice locally, deputy Scott Powers said. Between large amounts of snow in December and varying temperatures causing ice to thaw and freeze, there hasn't been a chance to create the thick, clear ice that is safest for walking or driving on, Powers said.
Last year, at least four vehicles went through the ice on local waters such as Lake Byllesby and Lake Pepin. This year, Powers said, people are being more cautious.
"We aren't seeing the same number of ice shacks this year, and we're seeing almost no cars [on the ice]," he said.
While there's been less activity on the lakes, Four Seasons Sports employee Travis Smerud said he's already heard of two people who fell through the ice this winter while walking on Lake Pepin.
Still, he said the poor conditions haven't had a big impact on business.
"If people want to go ice fishing, they will go," Smerud said, "even if they have to walk."
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources suggests waiting for at least 4 inches of ice to develop before walking or fishing on lakes, 5 inches for using snowmobiles and ATVs, 8 to 12 inches for driving cars and at least 12 to 15 inches for driving bigger vehicles such as trucks.
Ice conditions are starting to improve, but Powers said people should still take precautions. Some "thin ice" signs are posted at some local lakes, and Powers said before trekking out onto the ice, people should drill in to check the thickness or check in with the DNR or local bait shops.
Ike's Bait Shop also recommends people carry ice picks to give them better leverage should they fall through.
Even if some areas of a lake or river have thick ice, Powers said currents, warm spots or other factors could mean parts are still dangerous.
"Ice conditions can change drastically and quickly," he said.