Thanks to all the snow so far this winter, there are too many ice dams on the roofs and not enough fish houses on the lakes.

“I don’t ever remember the first week of January and you can count on one hand how many fish houses are on Big Detroit,” Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander said Tuesday, Jan. 7. “From what I know, because of the slush and the heavy snow, it’s the same throughout the county.”

The snow and slush have been the biggest obstacle to getting fish houses out on the ice this season, but inconsistent ice depths are also a concern.

Earlier this month, a utility tractor equipped with a loader and snowblower broke through about 8 inches of ice on Big Detroit Lake. “It went down in about 5 feet of water in front of the Lodge (on the Lake),” Glander said. The driver happened to be off the tractor at the time attending to other matters and so avoided an icy bath -- the tractor went down alone. It was recovered by Tri-State Diving.

The tractor was being used by organizers of the 1 Lunger 100 vintage snowmobile race, held over the weekend on Big Detroit Lake near Holiday Inn. “They did 35 test holes,” when they laid out the preliminary route, said Chief Deputy Shane Richard. “None were under 12 inches and most were 12 to 16 inches,” he said.

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The final race course was rerouted to steer clear of that one patch of weak ice and the race was held without any problems, Richard said.

In his weekly fishing column in the Tribune, Detroit Lakes guide Brad Laabs said the weather has made it tough for ice fishing.

“The ups and downs of the weather, along with multiple snow events, stalled the buildup of ice even to the thicknesses making it safe for small trucks,” Laabs wrote earlier this month. That made it difficult to plow lake roads, and left ice fishermen to deal with “extremely slushy conditions and significant flooding on the lakes,” he wrote.

The weather has taken a nasty turn for the colder at the end of the first full week of January, but snow is great insulation, and officials say it could now take an extended period of bitter cold to build consistently thick ice.

“Use extreme caution when you venture out on the ice,” Glander said. “Don’t assume the ice is safe.”

Where's the ice? Check your gutters

The same deep snow and weather conditions created ice dams on lots of roofs this season.

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents snowmelt from draining off the roof. Large icicles on houses can be a sign of ice dams. The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation and other areas.

Josh Wurst and David Tingesdahl, friends who live in Richwood, have been busy this winter clearing snow off roofs. “We do it every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and we have a couple to do tonight,” Wurst said Tuesday. “Everyone is trying to get their ice dams off.”

Shoveling or raking the snow off a roof takes a load off and also prevents the snow from melting and pooling behind ice dams. “Most people are calling to get the snow off their roofs so the ice dams quit building,” he said.

The two generally prefer shoveling to using roof rakes, which is just as well, since the recent cold snap left little choice, Wurst said. “It’s terrible,” he said. “After that cold freeze last night, the snow is rock hard. Roof rakes don’t work, we have to chop it down with a shovel as best we can.”