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DNR: Iowa Great Lakes ice quality not good, use caution if operating snowmobile, ATV

The individuals were rescued by nearby anglers, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The incidents happened Thursday night.

SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa — EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above is from Jan. 4, 2022

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is warning people to be cautious when going out on the ice after a snowmobile and ATV broke through the ice on the Okoboji lakes Thursday night. 

The incidents happened on West and East Okoboji Lakes. Nearby anglers rescued the individuals, who were then treated and released from a local hospital. 

Greg Harson with the DNR's Law Enforcement Bureau said several calls came in Friday from individuals planning to go to the Iowa Great Lakes. However, he told them the ice quality "isn't as good as it has been in the past" and to use caution if operating a snowmobile or ATC on the lakes. 

“There are a number of areas to avoid, like the points, ice heaves, the bridges and locations where geese are keeping the water open. The pressure ridges are opening and are hard to see. If we get skim ice then covered with snow, that can create a dangerous situation,” Harson said in a release. “Geese are keeping a large area open on Spirit Lake out from the pump house, so be really careful if going out on Big Spirit this weekend.”

There is always risk associated with going on any ice and no ice is 100% safe, Harson stressed. He encouraged everyone to check the thickness of ice frequently and bring a throwable floatation cushion, 50 feet of rope and a set of ice picks when out on the lake. 

“The new snow is going to make identifying these hazards more challenging, and it’s also going to insulate the ice from the cold temperatures and slow its growth. We all look forward to this time of year to enjoy these lakes, but need to think twice and if it doesn’t look right or feel right, do not go out,” he said.

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