MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Despite several days of freezing temperatures, law enforcement officials are still warning people about the dangers of thin ice.

Last year in Minnesota, four people died after falling through the ice. There are still areas with open water around the metro, and even if it looks like a lake is frozen over, ice conditions can change very quickly.

That crush of ice on a frozen lake is the sound that signals the start of the cold weather hobby that Kevin Stripling waits for all year.

“It’s kind of a culture thing,” said Kevin Stripling, as he went ice fishing on Medicine Lake. “We’ve been doing it so long, it’s one of those things that’s fun to keep tradition.”

On Medicine Lake, the barrier between Kevin, and the sunfish below, is about 10 inches thick — it’s not all solid ice.

“It’s pretty soft ice, pretty flexible,” said Stripling.

The winter storm, in early December, left a layer of snow that prevented a solid freeze.

“It insulates the ice, so ice doesn’t form as fast as we’d like it too,” said Sgt. Clayton Sedesky, of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Water Patrol.

Ice conditions are a concern to law enforcement who deal with winter rescues every year.

“Right now, they’re very poor ice conditions, very poor,” Sedesky said.

This winter, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Water Patrol has needed to use their air boat for ice rescues three times. Ice warning signs are also placed throughout the county.

“On top of the ice, it’s smooth,” Sedesky said. “Then all the sudden, it’s a quarter-inch thick.”

Still, it’s hard to keep folks from that annual pilgrimage onto the frozen water when a few inches of ice are all that separate a fisherman from his catch.

“Always worried about safety,” Stripling said. “That’s why we drill test holes before we come out.”

Law enforcement recommends you always have ice picks with you when you go out on frozen lakes and rivers, and to wear a life jacket.

DNR clear ice thickness recommendations are:

  • 4 inches for walking.
  • 5 inches for a snowmobile or ATV.
  • 8 to 12 inches for a car.
  • 12 to 15 inches for a medium-sized truck

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