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Cold water can be a killer: DNR urges opening-day anglers to be prepared


It remains to be seen how the fish cooperate on Saturday’s fishing opener, but one thing is clear: With the ice having just left most lakes, the water will be cold, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 

That means anyone who heads onto the water should take extra precautions to prevent their trip from turning into a disaster.

“Falling into cold water causes an involuntary gasp and water inhalation, and even people who are strong swimmers can become incapacitated quickly,” said Lisa Dugan, DNR boat and water safety outreach coordinator. “Wearing a life jacket gives people a fighting chance if they fall into frigid water.”

More than 30 percent of all boating fatalities in Minnesota take place in cold water, and in nearly all instances victims were not wearing life jackets. But it isn’t enough just to have a life jacket in the boat – people need to wear them.

Falls overboard and capsizing are the most common causes of boating fatalities. And while wearing a life jacket is the one action that’s most likely to help boaters survive a fall into cold water, there are other steps anglers can take to help ensure they return to shore at the end of the day.

Anglers should head out with a friend or, at the very least, let people know where they are headed and what time they plan to return. Additionally, anglers can reduce their chances of tripping and falling into the water by keeping the floor of the boat free of coolers, tackle boxes and rods and reels.

“Nobody wants to step on and break an expensive fishing rod but trying to avoid doing so could lead anglers to lose their balance and fall overboard,” Dugan said. “Better to store extra rods in a rod locker or some other spot where they won’t be a potential hazard.”

For more tips on staying safe in cold water, go to