News release: As people head for the water, Minnesota DNR reminds them to prioritize their safety

April 11, 2024

With anglers, boaters, and paddlers taking advantage of the early ice-out across much of Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reminding anyone spending time around lakes, rivers, and ponds that water temperatures remain extremely low and unexpected falls can turn tragic.

Each year, about one-third of fatal boating accidents happen during the cold water period and many instances involve victims who weren’t wearing a life jacket. Cold water can quickly incapacitate even strong swimmers and the most effective way to survive a fall in is to wear a life jacket that’s buckled or zipped.

“Open-water enthusiasts are celebrating this year’s early ice-out, and we’re starting to see a lot of activity on water bodies throughout the state,” said Capt. Adam Block, boating law administrator for the DNR Enforcement Division. “Safety is vital year-round, but we urge people to double down on it this time of year because the consequences of falling into cold water can become severe extremely quickly.”

Following are a few tips to keep in mind as this year’s open-water season commences:

  • Wear a foam-filled life jacket. While inflatable life jackets are gaining in popularity, they might not fully inflate when the water is cold. Check manufacturer recommendations for specific instructions regarding water temperature.
  • Ensure watercraft are registered and equipped with proper safety equipment. Before heading out on the water, check all equipment to ensure it functions properly.
  • Distribute weight evenly and abide by manufacturers’ weight limits.
  • Always use the engine cut-off device if the watercraft is equipped with one.
  • Have a means of communication. People recreating around water should tell someone where they’re going and when they plan to return.
  • Watch the weather.

See the DNR’s cold water safety webpage for more information about staying safe around or on cold water.

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