With ice forming on Minnesota lakes, outdoor enthusiasts may be tempted to get out before ice is thick enough to support foot traffic. The Department of Natural Resources conservation officers have a message – stay off the ice until at least 4 inches of new, clear ice is present.
“Each year we see people going out on the ice before giving it enough time for a solid freeze.  People unexpectedly fall through and sadly lives have been lost because it was just too soon to be out on the ice,” said regional enforcement manager Capt. Cory Palmer.  “While no ice is 100 percent safe, we recommend following the DNR ice thickness guidelines before heading out.”
“On average, 3 to 4 people have died each winter season on Minnesota water over the past decade,” cautions Lisa Dugan, DNR boat and water safety outreach coordinator.  “Most of those deaths occurred with someone operating a snowmobile or ATV on the ice.
The DNR offers the following guidelines for new clear ice:
• 4 inches for ice fishing or other activities on foot.
• 5 inches for snowmobile or ATV.
• 8-12 inches for car or small pickup.
• 12-15 inches for medium truck.
Ice thickness may vary greatly across a single body of water, making it important to check the ice conditions before heading out.
“In addition to checking conditions and being prepared with an ice safety kit, the most important piece of equipment to have on the ice is a life jacket,” Dugan said. “By wearing, not just carrying, a life jacket the odds of surviving a fall into extremely cold water increase and could save your life.”
Once out on the ice, a safety kit is a good idea, should the ice give way. An ice safety kit should include:
• Rope
• Ice picks
• Ice chisel
• Tape measure
Last, tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
The DNR ice thickness guidelines and more resources are available at: mndnr.gov/icesafety.

Photo courtesy of the Minnesota DNR