Yes, it’s hot and summerlike now, but Minnesota’s long, cool spring kept boaters off the water — and out of trouble.
The number of boating fatalities and non-fatal boating accidents so far this season is down from last year, when an early spring prompted boaters to flock to lakes and rivers.
“Weather has played a factor,” said Kara Owens, Department of Natural Resources boat and water safety specialist.
There were eight boating fatalities through early July last year, compared to six so far this season. (One victim is missing and presumed drowned.) There were 39 non-fatal boating accidents last year at this time, compared to 15 so far in 2013.
There were a total of 15 boating fatalities and 72 non-fatal accidents in 2012.
“Once boating activity increases, the chances for accidents increase as well,” Owens said. “This year there were less people going to the lake because of the weather.”
But now, with hotter weather, boat traffic has picked up. Conservation officers reported a busy weekend over the long July 4th weekend. Owens is hoping increased boat traffic won’t result in more accidents or deaths. She said one simple factor — wearing a life jacket — can greatly reduce the odds of being a victim.
“Last year, 73 percent of boating fatalities were not wearing life jackets,”she said.
Fishing license sales
The warm weather finally has sparked fishing license sales. The number of licenses sold so far this season now is down about 76,000 (or 9 percent) from last year, but that’s a big improvement since spring. Sales had been down about 126,000, or 21 percent, in early June. The 9 percent decline still is a significant financial hit for the DNR. At $22 for a regular fishing license, the decline means a loss of about $1.7 million to the agency.
Did you know?
• Nuisance bears have been a problem this season. Conservation officer Dustie Heaton of Willow River reported that a bear recently climbed through a partly open window into an elderly couple’s home while they were away.
“The owners returned to find their home in disarray, chocolate chips and marshmallows from their Lazy Susan eaten and knickknacks on the floor,” Heaton reported. “The bear had exited the same way it came in.”
• Among the anglers checked by conservation officer Tom Hemker of Winona recently was a 96-year-old, who was fishing with his two sons.
Doug Smith • firstname.lastname@example.org