Published March 22, 2010, 04:49 PM

Vehicle owners encounter sinking feeling with bad ice on LOW

Minnesota man missing after snowmobile goes through in Ontario waters
Officials in Lake of the Woods County are urging anglers to stay off the ice with pickups and other larger vehicles after a series of recent breakthroughs caused by deteriorating ice conditions.

By: Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald

Officials in Lake of the Woods County are urging anglers to stay off the ice with pickups and other larger vehicles after a series of recent breakthroughs caused by deteriorating ice conditions.

Lake of the Woods County Sheriff Dallas Block said the sheriff’s department Friday posted signs at major Lake of the Woods access points telling anglers to stay off the ice with half-ton and heavier pickups.

“The lake isn’t safe anymore certainly for pickup traffic, and in a couple of days, it won’t even be safe for ATV traffic,” Block said Monday.

No injuries have been reported on the Minnesota side of the lake, the sheriff said.

Some who chose to ignore the department’s signs found out the hard way what can happen. Perhaps the most extreme case, Block said, occurred about 12 miles north of Pine Island, where a vehicle dropped into more than 30 feet of water. That particular incident hasn’t officially been reported to the department, he said.

Block said anyone who drops a vehicle through the ice has 30 days to have it removed. After that, he said, the sheriff can use “whatever means” to get it out and charge the owner up to five times the cost of retrieving the vehicle.

Because it’s so far from shore, the sheriff said it’s possible the vehicle could be in the drink all summer unless a barge or similar rig is hired to remove it from the watery depths.

“Right now, trying to get this vehicle out of 30 feet of water will be impossible,” Block said.

Two other breakthroughs were reported, Block said. A pickup dropped through the ice Thursday at The Point in Warroad, Minn., and was pulled out. The next day, a pickup broke through the ice about a quarter-mile from shore near Rocky Point. A photo of the truck, showing its front half completely submerged, has been making the rounds on fishing Web sites. And according to the report, the owner was continuing to contact tow trucks in the area to remove the vehicle.

The owner, from Annandale, Minn., didn’t immediately respond Monday to a request for comment.

Block said a couple of four-wheelers have gone through thin ice on the river in Baudette, Minn. And Monday morning, he said, authorities had to walk down to talk to some anglers fishing on the ice in Baudette Bay.

The Rainy River already is open all the way to Lake of the Woods north of Baudette, Block said, but a few die-hards continue to walk out on larger chunks of ice that remain in areas with slower current.

“We are advising absolutely no type of walking on the river,” Block said. “There’s no fish worth that.”

Quiet on DL

Elsewhere, anglers continue to travel on Devils Lake with ATVs, but a game warden official for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said Monday he hadn’t received any reports of vehicles breaking through.

Paul Freeman, a warden supervisor for the Game and Fish Department in Devils Lake, said traveling on the ice with a full-size vehicle would be “right stupid.”

“I’ve heard of some spots on East Devils Lake where the ice is pretty mushy and pretty poor,” Freeman said. “You just never know where that’s at.”

Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 148; or send e-mail to bdokken@gfherald.com.

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