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DNR: Be safe as early boating season gets started

Many lakes and rivers throughout Minnesota are now ice-free, and those where ice remains likely will be open in the near future. People are understandably eager to hit the water, but it remains dangerously cold. That means it’s vital for people to exercise extreme caution whenever they’re on or around the water.

According to a press release, each year about 30% of fatal boating accidents in Minnesota occur during the cold-water period.

“Our boating season in Minnesota is limited, so we know people want to spend every moment they can on open water,” said Col. Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR Enforcement Division. “But even among the strongest of swimmers, a fall into the water in April is far more dangerous than the same fall in July because of the incapacitating effects of cold water.”

As boaters begin taking their first trips of the year onto the water, they should:

Ensure their boat is equipped with proper safety equipment and that it’s all functioning properly.

Wear a life jacket (foam is more effective than inflatables during the cold-water season). A life jacket is the one thing most likely to help people survive a fall into cold water.

Distribute weight evenly and abide by manufacturer’s weight limits to reduce the likelihood of falling overboard.

Have a means of communication. Boaters also should let other people know where they’re going and when they plan to return.

Watch the weather to avoid shifting winds or storms.

For more information about staying safe on or around cold water, visit the DNR’s cold water dangers page.