The Bureau of Reclamation is advising the public to take precautions due to rapidly changing ice conditions at all reservoirs in North Dakota and South Dakota.

Unseasonably warm temperatures have increased water inflows, causing rapid shifts in ice conditions. An ATV and trailer broke through the ice at New Johns Lake last weekend in central North Dakota, the Bureau of Reclamation said. This accident emphasizes the danger of rapidly changing ice conditions for anglers and other recreationists, the agency said.

No ice can be considered 100% safe.

"Warmer temperatures, changing water elevations, and increased runoff create dangerous areas of thin ice creating unsafe conditions for individuals recreating on the rivers and lakes," said Joe Hall, Dakotas Area Office manager. "These fluctuating water elevations cause shifting ice conditions without prior warning."

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

Reclamation urges extreme caution whenever venturing onto the ice and offered the following general safety guidelines for frozen lakes:

  • Leave information about your plans with someone -- where you intend to fish and when you expect to return.
  • Wear a personal floatation device and don't fish alone.
  • Ice varies in thickness and condition. Always carry an ice spud or chisel to check ice as you proceed.
  • Be extremely cautious crossing ice near points of land. Water currents cause ice to be thinner over these areas.
  • Avoid going onto the ice if it has melted away from the shore. Receding ice indicates melting is underway, and ice can rapidly shift position as wind direction changes.
  • Waves from open water can quickly break up large areas of ice. If you can see open water in the lake and the wind picks up, get off the ice!
  • Carry a set of hand spikes to help you work your way back onto the surface of the ice if you fall through. Holding one in each hand, you can alternately punch them into the ice and pull yourself up and out. You can make these at home, using large nails, or you can purchase them at stores that sell fishing supplies.
  • Carry a safety line that can be thrown to someone who has gone through the ice.
  • Leave your car or truck on shore.
  • Heated fishing shanties must have good ventilation to prevent deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. Open a window or the door part way to allow in fresh air.

For more information on what to consider before going onto the ice, visit the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website at or the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department website at: