The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources urges people to exercise extreme caution around bodies of water in the state, as conditions vary widely.

While some lakes and rivers – especially in the south – already are attracting boaters, many in the north remain locked in ice. Conservation officers throughout the state report conditions are changing quickly and say last week’s snowfall on top of already weak ice have made things particularly precarious.

“This tends to be a dangerous time of year because people are excited to be on open water for the first time in months, or they’re trying to soak up every minute of ice-top recreation before the ice melts,” said Lisa Dugan, recreation safety outreach coordinator for the DNR Enforcement Division.

There have been five ice-related fatalities in Minnesota during the 2018-2019 ice season. But each year there are incidents in the waning days of the season. Last year, for example, an ATV rider died after breaking through the ice in late April.

The most effective way for people to ensure their safety, whether atop the ice or on the water, is to wear a life jacket. People who choose to venture onto ice at any time of year should always carry a pair of ice picks and check ice thickness frequently. This is particularly critical in the late season, as conditions change rapidly.

In addition, during the late season, people should double the DNR’s ice thickness recommendations, which apply to new, clear ice. While ice thickness can vary widely even on the same body of water, people should avoid areas such as bridges, channels, culverts and streams.