Enjoy the lakes safely this winter

Here on the Whitefish Chain we want everyone- whether resident, friend or visitor- to make the most of the outdoor playground nature has to offer. And to have the most fun out on the ice, it's important to always keep in mind ice safety.

The Minnesota DNR stresses that the ice is never 100 percent safe, which serves as a reminder to always use caution and be aware when heading out on the lake. Four inches is the minimum recommended ice thickness for walking out on the ice. Five inches is the recommendation for snowmobiles, 8-12 inches for small cars and 12-15 inches for small pickups. These guidelines are for good, clear ice- they don't apply to frozen slush or punky ice.

But even when there is good ice in one spot, another might be much thinner. Springs, inlets and outlets are all areas where water flow will affect the ice thickness. Remember, too, that the Whitefish Chain has flow- the Pine River enters the chain on the northwest side and exits it on the southeast side, so you can expect flow at every channel. Many, if not all of the channels on the chain are unsafe for travel all year. Sometimes channels can get a thin layer of ice that gets covered in snow, giving the appearance of good ice- but don't be fooled. Snowmobile trails will route riders around the channels on the chain.

Talk to bait shops, fishing guides and resort owners, as they often have the most up-to-date knowledge of ice conditions. When you head out onto the ice for the first time, bring a method for measuring. Some carry a cordless drill and measuring tape to drill into the ice. Others use a chisel (spud) and check the ice every so often. Ice augers are another way to check the ice- and if you're headed out fishing, you probably already have one with!

Whether you're skating, skiing, snowmobiling or fishing, have a great time out there! And don't forget to keep in mind ice safety guidelines as you do.

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