MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Tuesday marked the first official day of winter and many Minnesotans may soon be planning to head out on a frozen lake to skate or fish.

However, the weather so far this season — from heavy winter storms to record warmups and thunderstorms — hasn’t made for consistent ice. While there haven’t been any ice-related fatalities this season, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says the state averages three to four ice-related deaths each winter.

On Tuesday, conservation officers shared ice safety tips at Grays Bay on Lake Minnetonka. They used a spud bar to puncture holes in the ice to check for depth. Officers recommend that ice anglers poke small holes along the way to the spot they want to fish and then measure the thickness in the designated area with a ruler.

(credit: Minnesota DNR)

“Just remember: four, six, eight, 12,” said Brett Wiltrout, a DNR conservation officer. “Four inches is good enough for humans, six inches is good enough for recreational vehicles, eight inches for small vehicles, and then 12 inches for large wheelhouses, permanent houses and medium-sized pickups.”

Thin ice sighs were seen on Grays Bay, where officials say the ice is about four inches thick. While that’s safe enough for humans, it’s too thin for ice houses.

Ice conditions are expected to be better in northern Minnesota, where temperatures have been consistently cooler.

“It’s not really worth putting your life in jeopardy just for a few fish,” ice angler Dillion Johnson. “So, you gotta make sure that it’s safe.”

Marielle Mohs