Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 13, 2003

Unusual weather causes fishhouses to break through ice

By Ryan Gueningsman

Winsted Lake anglers woke up Thursday morning with some bad news ­ their fishhouses had broken through the lake's ice.

The McLeod County Sheriff's Office responded to a call in the early morning from a lakeshore resident reporting that several fishhouses had fallen through Winsted Lake overnight and into the morning.

"The warm weather caused the water temperature to warm up and created standing water on the lake's surface," said Minnesota Department of Natural Resources area fisheries supervisor Lee Sundmark. "The standing water goes through the fish holes that were drilled, and as it does that, it melts the sides of the holes, causing them to become larger and open up more."

As the holes become bigger, the fishhouse will eventually lose its basis of support and fall through the ice.

"There is also the wind and wave action," Sundmark said. "Last night (Wednesday), the wind was warmer than usual. It warmed up the air temperature a little more than if the air temperature had been colder."

There were five houses that went through the ice on Winsted Lake, and one that tipped over on its side from the wind, said conservation officer Wayne Hatlestad. Swan Lake, just north of Silver Lake, also had two reported fishhouses go through the ice.

Lake Marion south of Hutchinson had about 18 houses and a four-wheeler fall through the ice, he said.

Sheriff Wayne Vinkemeier closed Lake Marion to all motorized vehicles because of open water and generally unsafe conditions at about 1 p.m. Thursday.

"Right now we are not planning on closing Winsted Lake," Vinkemeier said. "We are expecting some colder weather and hoping that it will freeze over again.

"People need to use extreme caution driving on any ice, and even walking on the ice, when using the lakes."

There is a penalty for ice houses that are left on the ice, according to DNR Conservation Officer Rick Reller.

Although the decision is up to each DNR officer, there are both criminal and civil penalties for leaving ice houses out ­ although he is unsure how this will work since the circumstances are so unusual, Reller said.

Ice house owners may be charged with a misdemeanor, which is up to $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail, or be charged civilly by the DNR with a fee of $1 per day, per pound of what is termed as "solid waste,' since it is generally considered akin to littering.Ice house owners may also be charged for restitution if the DNR must remove the house.

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