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Fish houses sink into Little Detroit, ice remains thin

Deteriorating ice conditions on Little Detroit Lake caused the Becker County Sheriff's Department to issue an ice warning for the entire county on Tuesday.

Sheriff Tim Gordon said two fish houses fell through the ice on Tuesday morning and a third began to sink. The houses were unoccupied and nobody was hurt.

Lake ice across the state all the way to the Canadian border is in dangerous condition because of the warmer temperatures, lack of snow that allows full sun exposure, fish movement and windy conditions, Gordon said.

There have been several cases in Minnesota of lake ice breaking off and carrying away anglers, who then had to be rescued.

In this area, a man had to be rescued from the icy water when his ATV went through lake ice near Pelican Rapids recently, and earlier this month, a pickup truck went through the ice on Toad Lake, Gordon said.

"Use extreme caution" when venturing onto the ice for any reason, Gordon said.

Don't drive any vehicles onto the ice and be careful when walking or skating. He recommends wearing life jackets and carrying hand picks to get out if you break through the ice.

Don't venture onto the ice at night and use a probe to check ice thickness.

"I know a lot of fishermen say we have 6 inches, 8 inches, 10 inches of ice -- but we have pockets of extremely thin ice also, and there's no way to determine (from looking at it)," Gordon said.

While out on a lake training exercise with the Detroit Lakes Fire Department just before Christmas, the emergency workers found patchy ice thickness, from 6 inches to an inch within a span of about 50 feet.

Gordon said people might want to consider moving their fish houses closer to shore until a good freeze occurs.

Some fish houses are absorbing the sunlight, warming them and causing them to sink into the ice, he said. Owners are responsible for removing all fish house debris, including skids and other material frozen into the ice, he said.

"We just have some tough ice conditions right now," he said. "What we need is some subzero temperatures -- that would make it really freeze up."

Daytime temperatures have been in the 30s and nighttime temperatures in the 20s, and that isn't cold enough to make consistently thick ice, Gordon said.

That's also the forecast for the next seven days, so the problem is not going anywhere for at least another week, he said.