At long last, the Minnesota fishing opener arrives this weekend and while anglers will experience warmer temperatures, the water will still be dangerously cold.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says that even though there were extra ice-free days on bodies of water across the state, cold water remains due to relatively cool weather since then, including overnight lows in the 30s.  Cold water poses a serious threat if anglers aren't prepared for it.

“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.”

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The DNR adds that 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. As good of a swimmer as someone might be, it simply doesn't matter after an unexpected fall into fall into cold water, where any swimmer can succumb to the debilitating effects of cold water within minutes.

State law requires anyone under 10 to wear a life jacket while boating, but all anglers are encouraged to wear one when out on the water, especially during cold water season.

Here are some other tips to help everyone stay safe during the opener and beyond:

  • 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.

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