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Sheriff's offices warn of deteriorating ice

As unseasonably warm weather quickly deteriorates ice conditions on lakes across much of the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and local sheriff's departments are urging recreationists to take caution.

As unseasonably warm weather quickly deteriorates ice conditions on lakes across much of the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and local sheriff's departments are urging recreationists to take caution.

Over the past week, public safety officials reported more than a half-dozen ice emergencies across the state involving anglers and snowmobile or ATV riders breaking through thin or weak ice, one of them on Gull Lake.

"Things are deteriorating more quickly than we expected," Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch said. "People need to use extreme caution and be careful."

Recent incidents in both counties saw vehicles driving close to the shore, often parallel to the shoreline, when the ice collapsed.

"It is getting to the point where it - for lack of a better term - is an unknown of what you are going to run into for ice thickness or safety," Crow Wing County Captain Scott Goddard said. "With the rain, the warm weather and the snow being gone, the ground is heating up and there is a lot more run-off, which is apparent in virtually every shoreline area."

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The mandatory date for ice shelter removal is Monday, March 20, for the northern part of the state. However, sheriffs may prohibit or restrict the use of motorized vehicles if dangerous ice conditions are present. Despite this, there are currently no areas in Cass County or Crow Wing County where access is restricted.

"If you are going on the ice, it is important to use extreme caution and let people know where you are going," Burch said.

Goddard also suggested talking to bait shop employees and other area fishermen to locate the best ice, as well as wearing clothing that floats and pack ice picks in the event that self-rescue is necessary.

"The great majority of those out on the lake realize when we reach the point of it not being worth going out," Goddard said. "I would say we are on the verge of that right now ... I think people realize there could be a risk and are being more cautious."

He also advised anglers and recreationists to have "the common sense" to avoid the lakes if they feel the ice is not safe, as an ice emergency would put others - namely deputies and rescue crews - at risk as well.

For additional information about ice safety, visit www.mndnr.gov/icesafety . For ice shelter removal information, visit

"Let's" target="_blank">www.dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/shelter.html.

"Let's just hope for an early summer," Goddard said. "I think we all deserve it."
Related Topics: CASS COUNTYCROW WING COUNTY
Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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