By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — While it is spring, winter has made it clear, it’s not ready to loosen its grip. That is causing some concern on Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes.

WCCO spoke with the DNR about how the fluctuating temperatures are leading people to make dangerous decisions.

“Fishing opener is just around the corner and there may still be ice on the lakes during that time,” the DNR’s Lisa Dugan said.

Minnesotans love being on the water no matter the season. But this time of year, that can lead to a dangerous mistake.

“This ice season we’ve already seen five recorded ice fatalities,” Dugan said.

In recent weeks, emergency teams have been called to pull out pets, animals and people out of frigid water. Dugan knows there’s a lot of ice season left.

“Even with the recent cold snap that doesn’t change the fact ice is already begun melting and will continue to do so pretty rapidly,” she said.

Despite what the thermometer reads, the sun is getting stronger. Soon there will be more open water on the rivers and lakes, as well as areas along the shore line.

“They’re unpredictable and conditions can change so rapidly that you really just want to stay away from those spots,” Dugan said. “We’ve seen above freezing temperatures. We’ve seen rain, we’ve seen snow. All of those factors do create really unpredictable ice conditions.”

Dugan says there are some visual clues. Milky white ice means it’s been through the freeze/thaw cycle and it’s half as strong as new ice.

So if you do want to venture out, the DNR says the ice should be at least twice as thick as what it normally recommends. That means eight inches for walking, thicker for snowmobiling or driving.

“Ice is never 100 percent safe and no fish is worth the risk of losing your life,” Dugan said.

The DNR says you should also constantly check the ice thickness because it can vary several inches in a short distance. Wear a life jacket or float coat and be sure someone knows where you’ll be and when you’re expected back.

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