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Aerated lakes spell danger for outdoors enthusiasts

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources warns ice anglers, snowmobilers, skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts to extra caution when going onto any lake that has aeration systems.

"Open water areas created by aeration systems can shift or change shapes depending on weather conditions," said Marilyn Dunks, DNR aquatic biologist. "Leaks may develop in air lines creating other areas of weak ice or open water."

Approximately 280 Minnesota lakes will have aeration systems operating on them this winter. Private hatchery operators also use aeration systems, usually on small lakes without public accesses.

Aeration systems help prevent winterkill of fish populations by adding oxygen to the lake.

A permit is required from the DNR to install and operate an aeration system. Permit holders must publish public notices, post warning signs and inspect the systems at least once every seven days.

Watch for notices in local newspapers identifying aerated lakes.

Two types of signs are used to post aerated lakes.

"Warning" signs are required at all commonly used access points to the lake.

"Thin Ice" signs are used to mark the perimeter of the thin ice and open water area. It's the permit-holder's responsibility to post and maintain these signs at 100-foot intervals.

Some municipalities may have more prohibitive regulations which are often posted at accesses.

For information, call a regional fisheries office or the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157, or toll-free (888) 646-6367.