NEW ULM — Southern Minnesota ice fishing shelters must be off the ice by the end of the day Monday, March 5, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
If shelters are not removed, owners will be prosecuted, and the structures and contents may be confiscated and removed, or destroyed by a DNR conservation officer.
Anglers violating the deadlines could be fined several hundred dollars, plus lose their shelters, some of which cost several thousand dollars. Some ice shelters may float away if the ice breaks.
After ice shelter removal dates, they can only remain on the ice for early-morning hour ice fishing–between midnight and one hour prior to sunrise, only when occupied or attended.
County sheriffs may prohibit or restrict the use or motorized vehicles if dangerous ice conditions are present.
Storing or leaving shelters on a public access is prohibited. It is unlawful to improperly dispose of ice fishing shacks anywhere in the state.
The DNR warned ice fishermen that ice is never 100 percent safe. You can’t judge ice strength by its appearance, age, thickness, temperature, or whether or not it is covered with snow. Strength is based on all these factors, plus the depth of the water under the ice, size of the water body, water chemistry and currents, the distribution of the load on the ice, and local climatic conditions.
The DNR recommends ice fishing and other activities on foot with four-inch ice. People should stay off ice less than four inches thick. White ice or “snow ice” is only about half as strong as new, clear ice. Ice can be two feet thick in one place and one inch thick a few yards away. Ice thickness should be checked every 150 feet.
The DNR also recommends:
• Checking with a county sheriff’s office for ice condition information.
• Parking cars, pickups or Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) at least 50 feet apart and moved every two hours to prevent sinking. Make a hole in the ice next to your vehicle. If water starts to overflow the top of the hole, the ice is sinking and it’s time to move the vehicle.
• If you must drive a vehicle on ice, be prepared to leave it in a hurry. Keep the windows down and have a simple emergency plan of action you have discussed with your passengers.
• Avoid alcoholic beverages.
• Wear a life vest or a flotation snowmobile suit under your winter gear. Carry a pair of ice picks.
• If you do fall in, don’t removed your winter clothing. They can trap air to provide warmth and flotation, especially a snowmobile suit.
• Turn toward the direction you came. It’s probably the strongest ice.
• Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface. A pair of nails, sharpened screwdrivers or ice picks can come in handy to help you pull yourself up onto the ice.
• Kick your feet and dig in your ice picks to work your way back onto solid ice.
• Lie flat on the ice once you are out and roll away from the hole to keep your weight spread out. This may help prevent you from breaking through again.
• Get to a warm, dry, sheltered area and re-warm yourself immediately.
• If someone else falls in, encourage them to fight to survive and reassure them help is on the way. If you can safely reach them from shore, extend an object like a rope, ladder, or jumper cables.
• If the rescue is too dangerous to perform, call 911 for help.
For more information, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/shelter.html
Fritz Busch can be emailed at [email protected]