Thursday, May 1, 2014

Rivers and lakes: cold water and moving fast

    As Minnesotans get their fishing gear and boats ready for the 2014 fishing opener, the Department of Natural Resources is urging anxious fishermen and women to keep in mind that lake and river levels are high and the temperature of that water is still cold.

    A no-wake zone is currently in effect on the St. Croix River from Taylors Falls to Prescott. Keller and Spoon lakes in Ramsey County and Crystal Lake in Dakota County are also no-wake. The Minneapolis locks on the Mississippi River are closed to both recreational and commercial traffic.

    “People should always wear their lifejackets every time they step on a boat and especially during times of high and cold water,” said Kara Owens, DNR boating safety specialist. “High water levels mean a fast and strong moving current, which many boat operators are not used to, and that can create dangerous situations.”

    The swift current also makes it more difficult for even an experienced swimmer to swim or stay afloat – especially in cold water – if their boat or canoe capsized.

    More than 30 percent of boating fatalities in Minnesota happen in cold water – water below 70 degrees – with a victim not wearing a life jacket.

    On April 19, a man died after his canoe capsized in Blue Earth County. The victim is the first boating death of 2014. Thirteen people died in boating accidents in 2013.

    Falling into icy water can be deadly because many boaters do not think about the effects of cold water immersion, Owens said. 

    The shock of the cold water causes an involuntary gasp reflex. It takes less than a half cup of water in the lungs to drown. The shock of sudden entry into the water can also cause cardiac arrest, even for people in good health.

    The DNR recommends these safety tips for boaters:

    • Wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket. 

    • Do not overload the boat.

    • If boat capsizes, try to reboard or stay with it until rescuers arrive.

    • Tell someone fishing destination and planned return time.

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