With temperatures rising and ice getting thinner, many ice fishers are running a risk when bringing their vehicles onto the frozen lakes. There have been cases all around the area of fishermen losing their snowmobiles, ATV’s and automobiles to the ice.
The Department of Natural Resources website recommends five inches for snowmobiles and ATV’s, eight to 12 inches for cars and small pickup trucks and at least 12 to 15 inches for medium to large pickup trucks.
Local fisherman and St. Cloud State University student Connor Huberty said, “I wouldn’t be scared if I’m walking on the ice, but with rising temperatures, I would be hesitant to take any vehicle on the ice.”
“Usually I check the access to the lake and check if other vehicles are out there,” Shane Olmscheid, another student from St. Cloud State University said. “And if there is a good amount of vehicles out there it should be okay.”
Even when the casual person thinks the ice is thick enough, it can be quite deceiving, especially after a rain storm or a warm-up in the temperature. A big reason is due to the runoff from the sewer systems. Nobody sees what it does, but as it runs into lakes and streams, the warmer water can melt the ice from the bottom making it thinner.
“You’ll start seeing open spots in certain areas where whether it be springs but particularly on lakes that have islands and neck down areas that create flow in the water, those are spots you want to stay away from,” Joe Stewig, the Area Fisheries Manager at the Sauk Rapids Department of Natural Resources said.
No matter what the ice thickness, Stewig urges drivers to drive with caution since the whole lake is never the same thickness. Speed takes a large part in ice safety as well. What may seem like a comfortable speed to drive, may not be safe below the ice.
“When you drive on ice, it flexes and creates a wave in front of the vehicle,” Stewig said. “If you get into some thin ice, that wave from underwater may have the tendency to break the ice in front of you and then lead you to dropping your front end in front of the water,” he said.
Stewig also mentioned that staying under 15 miles per hour should be a safe speed when making the trip to the fish house.
What do you do if you and your vehicle falls through the ice? The DNR website recommends while the car is still afloat, to escape through the side windows of the car or to push the front or back windshield out with your feet or shoulder. Going out of the door would be hard to do considering the water pressure would keep it shut. However, if the vehicle hits the bottom of the water, the door should be easier to open.
Is it worth risking your vehicle just to get to the fish house faster? It could come with a hefty price tag if you are unfortunate enough to fall victim to the ice. Not only is the car completely destroyed, but the costs to get it removed from water can vary between $3,000 and $10,000. It is also a very dangerous job to remove as well. A towing company has to dive down into the water to hitch it up and the ice has to be sturdy enough for the towing truck to be on it.
As the end of the fishing season closes and temperatures rise, ice safety is something to really pay attention too. Being careful is better than being sorry, and the fish aren’t going anywhere. Once summer comes around, it will be time to get back in that boat and toss out another line.
Photo by Jessie Wade