Deaths on Minnesota Lakes on the Rise

Updated: 02/25/2013 5:55 AM KSTP.com By: Katherine Johnson

Jill Anderson may be new to ice fishing but when it comes to safety she's a pro.

"Even if you have two to three feet of ice there's still going to be spots on lakes that may have weak ice, may have springs, may have water flowing in from streams or rivers," she said.

The DNR believes those are just a few of the reasons why this winter has been deadlier than recent years. The DNR reports five deaths on Minnesota ice this winter.  A sixth person is missing and believed to have drowned.

In the winter of 2006 to 2007, eight people died in ice-related incidents.  

"Once it kind of gets to that point where it becomes iffy we really don't go out on the ice anymore even though we see a lot of people out there," said Anderson.

Another explanation: more people are using the lakes this winter compared to last because of the colder temperatures.

The owner of Bearz Sport near White Bear Lake says business has never been better. She's already sold twice as much bait this year than she did last year.

"The people that have had problems on the lake with their vehicles are the people that don't know the lake," said Bearz Sport owner Kathleen Hansen.  Fishermen often stop in to use her expertise as a guide before venturing out onto the lake. "Ice is never safe but we tell them if you don't know the lake you've got to stay to the safe areas."

All of the deaths have involved a snowmobile or car either falling into open water or breaking through the ice.

Fish houses and portables must be off the ice no later than midnight on March 4 in the southern two-thirds of the state and March 18 in the northern third.