Authorities are urging anglers to use caution after recent reports of vehicles breaking through bad ice on northeast North Dakota lakes.
Paul Freeman, northeast district enforcement supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Devils Lake, said a pickup went through the ice Friday on North Golden Lake northeast of Finley, N.D. A vehicle also broke through thin ice a few days earlier on the Mauvais Coulee, which flows into Devils Lake, he said.
Two more incidents were reported over the weekend. The Benson County Sheriff’s Office on its Facebook page reported a pickup went through thin ice Friday night, and an ATV pulling a trailer broke through the ice about 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“If you must go on the ice, please get off before dark,” the sheriff’s office said in the post. “The ice is very unpredictable. Too many vehicles are falling through.”
Specifics on where the vehicles broke through the ice in Benson County weren’t immediately available, but the temperature Friday and Saturday soared into the 40s across the Lake Region.
Freeman said the Game and Fish Department is starting to track reports of vehicles that break through thin ice if they hear about them.
“We don’t hear about most of them—at least I don’t,” Freeman said. “Most of the times, people don’t want to involve us. I don’t know how many are going through.”
Vehicle owners are on their own dime to retrieve vehicles that fall through the ice. Despite the recent breakthroughs, Freeman said no injuries have been reported.
“We’ve been lucky so far,” he said.
Freeman said conditions deteriorated rapidly during the recent warm snap, and the onset of colder weather that rolled into the area Monday should benefit anglers looking to get permanent shelters off the ice.
March 15 is the deadline for removing permanent shelters from North Dakota waters, but the Game and Fish Department this year is recommending anglers get their houses off the ice early—especially in the western and southern parts of the state.
Freeman said anglers in northeast North Dakota would be smart to follow that recommendation, as well.
“From what I hear from some of my (wardens), a lot of houses were taken off over the weekend, which is great—which needed to happen,” Freeman said. “The wise ones will have their houses off the ice by this weekend.”
Jon Falch of Larimore, N.D., said he fished a part of Devils Lake with current Wednesday and found 14 inches of ice. By Saturday, Falch said, that same spot only had 7 inches of ice.
Besides current areas, Freeman said anglers should use caution near sunken roadbeds where the water is 5 feet deep or shallower. Definitely avoid driving in those areas, he said.
“Any time that substrate is that close to the ice, it’s going to be thin,” Freeman said. “It’s just so variable. It’s been a horrible year for making ice.”