MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – While it may not be safe for driving, the ice formation is generally ahead of schedule.

And if you ask Joe Harty, bait shop owner and 47-year Medicine Lake fisher, it’s been a long time since it’s been ready this early.

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“November is deer hunting time, we’re not supposed to be ice fishing now,” Harty said.

But he measured the ice Saturday at more than seven inches.

Last year he opened his bait shop on Dec. 15, this year he opened on Nov. 28. Because of the early freeze he says Medicine Lake is ready for foot traffic.

However, caution is a good thing this time of year.

The DNR wants you to know the basics.

If this ice is:

— 2 inches or less – Stay off.

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— 4 inches – Ice fishing or activities on foot are fine

— 5 inches – Snowmobiling or riding an ATV is fine

— 8 – 12 inches – A car or small pickup can drive on the ice

— 12 – 15 inches – A medium truck can drive on the ice

The DNR says it’s also good to ask around at a local bait shop, such as Harty’s which is open for questions and purchases.

So, could this be a possible prelude to an extra icy season?

“No one can predict that,” Harty said. “But when it’s good, you gotta run.”

Now the ice thickness of course varies from lake to lake.

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If you want to know how to gauge your local body of water, visit the DNR online.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield