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Ice-out on Detroit Lake has long history

Roger Engstrom of Pickerel Lake remembers the times when the ice came off the lakes from when he was younger.

"They used to put a car out on the ice (of Detroit Lake) when I was a kid," he said. "When the car fell through, that's when it happened."

Engstrom said this was around 1956 or 1957, when he rode the school bus past the lake. There was a clock in the car that would stop when it hit the water. People would remove the car from the lake and check the clock for the time.

Dixie Johnson says her family bets on the ice out in a different way. "In our family, it's kind of crazy. We don't have a pot, but the winner gets to pick the menu for a family dinner." The Johnson family has been doing this for years and Johnson said, "This year we've all missed because the last guess was the 16th."

Engstrom says bets are taken at the Downtown Coffee Club for predictions of when the ice will be off. Whoever guesses closest to the date and time of the ice off gets the pot, which can be substantial. Engstrom said he'd read an article in the paper saying that around 1960, there were some 3,000 guesses.

Ice out dates are posted on the Pelican River Watershed District website. Dick Hecock, a consultant for the PRWD, has been compiling the dates since 1993, in an attempt to get more accurate readings.

"It's been collected over a long period of time, by different people with different standards," Hecock said in a phone call April 16.