Mother Nature gave Minnesotans extra ice-free days this spring on many of the state’s water bodies, but relatively cool weather since then—including overnight lows in the 30s—means the water temperature may be lower than people expect. As anglers prepare to hit the water for Saturday’s fishing opener, it’s vital they keep this in mind and put their safety first.
“The date on the calendar isn’t helpful in determining the temperature of the water,” said Col. Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement Division director. “This year’s opener is later in May than usual, but in many places the water temperature remains dangerously cold. Anglers need to be aware of that fact, and plan accordingly.”
About 30 percent of annual boating fatalities happen during the cold-water season, when the water is less than about 70 degrees, and often involve the victim not wearing a life jacket. Swimming ability means little after an unexpected fall into cold water, as even strong swimmers can succumb to the debilitating effects of cold water within minutes.
“The law requires anyone younger than 10 to wear a life jacket when boating, but we urge everyone to wear a life jacket when they’re on or near water. This is especially important when water temperatures are low,” said Lisa Dugan, DNR Enforcement Division recreation safety outreach coordinator. “It’s the easiest and most effective way to prevent a tragedy.”
The DNR also offers the following tips for staying safe as this fishing season gets underway:
- Don’t head out alone, and always tell someone on shore where you are going and when you plan to return.
- Keep the floor of the boat free of clutter to avoid tripping and falling into the water.
- Ensure boat is equipped with safety equipment such as life jackets, communication and noise-making devices, and a first-aid kit.
For additional tips on staying safe on cold water, including what people should to do if they fall in, visit the DNR’s cold water dangers webpage.