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Walking on thin ice

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Footprints were visible in the snow Wednesday, Nov. 28, leading out onto the ice just above the dam in Pine River.

Pine River Police Chief Paul Sand said his department has responded twice to instances of children on the ice at the dam. The children were around the ages of 12-14, he said, and were told they should not be on the ice.

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“They’re old enough to know better,” Sand said.

He also suggested, though, that parents inform their kids.

“Thin ice” signs were recently put up, and Sand said more are on the way.

“The ice there isn’t safe,” he said. “The weather hasn’t stayed that cold. Common sense would dictate, stay off the ice.”

Local authorities agree that no matter what the activity, great caution must be taken on the ice.

A few fishermen were seen on the Highway 371 bay of North Long Lake the weekend of Dec. 1.

Sherree Wicktor, of S&W Bait just south of that bay, said that bay and Lake Margaret had around 3-4 inches of ice that weekend, but the weather was warming up.

That caused areas near channels to open up, she said. She thinks the ice fishing season will start late.

“It looks like (the season’s) starting like last year and going to be slow again,” Wicktor said.

The Holiday station in Crosslake reported selling bait, but employees hadn’t seen anyone on area lakes.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) states on its website “there is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice.”

The DNR states that no one should travel on ice that is 2 inches thick or less. For new, clear ice, 4 inches is safe for ice fishing and other activities on foot, 5 inches is enough for an ATV or snowmobile, 8-12 inches is needed for a car or small pickup, and 12-15 inches is needed for a medium truck.

Crosslake Police Chief Robert Hartman reported the channel between Cross Lake and Daggett Lake had been frozen over but reopened, indicating that ice in that area is not going to be safe this time of year.

The biggest problem area he sees is the channel at the Wharf restaurant between Cross and Rush lakes. That channel stays open year-round, he said.

In addition to the numerous channels on the Whitefish Chain, Hartman said there are springs that will keep the ice thin or non-existent even on very cold days. He recommended checking with bait shops and resorts before going out on the ice.

“People follow the shoreline on snowmobiles but up here we have a lot of springs and even that is not safe,” Hartman said. “If you’re not familiar, go out during the day and follow marked trails. We have a great trail system.”

“You can’t judge the strength of ice just by its appearance, age, thickness, temperature or whether or not the ice is covered in snow,” the DNR states.

“Strength is based on all these factors — plus the depth of water under the ice, size of the water body, water chemistry and currents, distribution of the load on the ice, and local climatic conditions.”

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