Thoughts From the Sheriff

The 2024 Minnesota fishing opener will begin on Saturday, May 11th.  I want to take time this month to remind everyone of some safety tips to ensure that this season is fun and accident free.  Angling season is always exciting, but early season can pose some risks.


First off, the water temperatures in our area are still very cold. It takes until July most years to have the surface temperature of lakes to be the same as air temperatures. If you fall out of your boat and end up in the water, the cold-water temperatures will pose a significant danger to you, regardless of your swimming ability. In water temperatures of 32.5-40 degrees Fahrenheit, it only takes15-30 minutes for you to succumb to exhaustion or unconsciousness. Your expected time of survival ranges from 30-90 minutes. As water temperatures increase, so do your chances of survival. 


If you find yourself in cold water, wearing your lifejacket will be your best chance for survival. When a person falls into cold water, the body has the reaction of taking a deep breath because of the shock to the body. It is that first deep breath that can be fatal if you are under the water when that reaction occurs. If you have a life vest on it will not only help you resurface, but keep you floating without having to exert too much energy. The amount of time you have to keep meaningful movement in your extremities is limited in cold water, so it is important to assess the situation you're in and decide on how to get out of the water. Time is not on your side, so please wear your life vest, especially in the early season. It may just save your life.


Another factor that can lead to a tragedy is mixing boating with alcohol. Alcohol is the number one factor in boating fatalities. I've had people ask me if it is legal to be drinking while boating. The answer to that question is yes, you can drink alcoholic beverages aboard a boat and have open containers. The Boating While Impaired (BWI) laws are targeted at individuals who are operating a motorboat that is not anchored, beached or docked. The blood alcohol concentration for a BWI is the same as Driving While Impaired (DWI) which is a.08 BAC. If you have repeat BWI's, the level of crime can be enhanced to a felony just like in a DWI case. Please keep this in mind when you are out enjoying the summer sun on your boat. If you're going to drink, do so responsibly.


A few more reminders to keep you safe this summer if you go out fishing or boating include telling someone where you're going and what time you are expecting to be back.  If you have a cellphone, bring it with in case your plans change or some kind of accident happens. Don't assume that your phone will work in all places. There are many dead spots throughout our county where you will not have cell service. Whomever you told of your plans should also know that if you don't show up when you're supposed to and they haven't heard anything different, to call 911 immediately. As I stated earlier, time is important if a rescue would need to be initiated.


Next, be alert to weather changes. Don't stay on the water if you see a storm approaching. Lightning and strong winds can be a very serious threat if you are on the water in a boat. If you happen to be on a bigger body of water, strong winds can cause large waves which make the risk of capsizing much more likely. Depending on the size of your boat, even smaller bodies of water can have waves big enough to capsize your boat. If you find yourself in rough water, slow down. Doing this will help you avoid capsizing.


Lastly, be familiar with your boat and how it operates. Stay seated and low in the boat when it is moving to avoid falling over and stay alert to dangers in the water such as rocks, trees or other floating objects. And remember, be courteous to others who are also using the waters of our state.


I hope that everyone has a great summer and take the time to enjoy all of our local area lakes. We are truly fortunate to have such a great natural resource so readily available to us. Get out and enjoy it and good luck.


If you have questions that you would like answered or any suggestions, please email me at darin.halverson@co.clearwater.mn.us or call the Sheriff's Office at (218) 694-6226. You can also find us on Facebook by searching for Clearwater County Sheriff's Office.

Thank you and as always, I am honored to serve as your Clearwater County Sheriff.