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Be smart on thin ice

Every early winter seems to open with stories of anglers venturing onto thin ice on area lakes. The ice-fishing folks, many of whom are experienced winter anglers, seem to suffer a kind of brain freeze when the call of the ice rises from the lakes of North Dakota and Minnesota.

Thin ice always proves to be unsafe. The stories are always the same: Anglers break through, lose equipment, vehicles and sometimes their lives. There is little that is new about the stories, except that this winter there are more of them because the weather has been unseasonably mild and lake ice is unusually thin for late December.

Still, there seems to be a dummy factor at work. Surely every angler who loves fishing through the ice knows the weather has been warm. Surely they understand that - and this is not rocket science - warm weather means thin ice, and thin ice is unsafe. Yet, out they go and in they go.

Now this would be no big deal - no business of anyone but the anglers themselves - if all they did is exercise their stupidity, and risk was limited to only them. But without fail, anglers who get themselves in life-threatening situations because they thought they could fool Mother Nature require rescue and often medical attention. Rescue and on-the-scene medical attention invariably entails mobilization of public resources, and that can get expensive. Therefore, the public expense of dealing with the ice-macho crowd is a concern of the taxpayers who pay the bill.

Furthermore, the irresponsibility of the anglers who challenge thin ice puts rescuers and other first responders at risk.

Again, we stress: Anyone with a modicum of sense knows the ice this season is not safe. Even if early ice is thick enough on parts of a lake - say 4 to 6 inches for foot traffic and light recreational vehicles - it's almost a guarantee it's not safe in other places. There is no way of knowing where it's thick enough and where it's thin and dangerous. Anglers who claim to be knowledgeable about ice conditions (the news reports confirm they don't know what they are talking about) should just stay off the lakes.

Frankly, it's galling that public resources have to be tapped to rescue stupid people. But that's the way it is, so everyone pays the price. Nevertheless, it's useful to ponder the words of Forrest Gump's mother:

"Stupid is as stupid does ..."

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Morris Sun Tribune are both owned by Forum Communications Co. Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.