Caution is encouraged when venturing onto frozen area lakes. Jim Staricha of Northland Towing and Lake Recovery in Isle has already recovered seven vehicles from Lake Mille Lacs this ice fishing season as of Jan. 30. Two were fully submerged, and all but one were totaled. In addition, on Jan. 5 the Mille Lacs Drift Skippers’ Bobcat with a brush hog was recovered from a swamp on a trail off Hwy. 47.
Northland’s services reach statewide, yet Staricha said most calls he responded to have been local this year. “I’d stay away from shallow reefs and points with all this warm weather,” Staricha said. “Go through the resorts and talk to the resort owners. They watch the lake all day long. They know what’s going on. Spend the $10 and save yourself a lot of money.”
Northland responded to an incident on Jan. 9 that occurred on the east side of Mille Lacs Lake straight out from the old Lakeside Resort. Staricha said the plowed road blew apart due to temperature change, and the vehicle was traveling too fast when it went over a crack in the lake.
Two other incidents took place on the west side of the lake. In Vineland on Jan. 5, a vehicle was recovered near Randy’s Rental. In Garrison on Jan. 15, a vehicle had successfully crossed over a crack straight out from Twin Pines Resort in St. Albans Bay all day until the drink swallowed them during the third pass, Staricha said.
On the south side, three vehicles were recovered in Cove Bay near Mazomanie Point on Jan. 21, 28 and 29. One driver got lost in the fog and traveled too close to thin ice near the point. “It hardly ever freezes there,” Staricha warned.
On the north side, another vehicle went in the lake near Red Door Resort while trying to cross a crack without using the bridge.
Thankfully none of the seven vehicle breakthroughs on Mille Lacs Lake this year have resulted in any injuries or fatalities, Staricha said. Northland Towing recovered 12 vehicles from lakes around the state last year; seven were pulled from Mille Lacs Lake. In 2015, the tow company recovered 18 vehicles from lakes statewide, and 32 in 2014.
Recovering a vehicle from the lake is quiet a process. It takes about six hours to recover a fully-submerged vehicle, Staricha said. After an hour and a half of cutting a hole in the ice, it takes a diver about 45 minutes to hook chains up to the rear-end of a submerged vehicle. By using a pair of 44-foot beams, an overhead arch and two winch trucks, the vehicle can then be pulled from the lake.
It takes about an hour and a half, two telephone poles and a wench to recover a vehicle that isn’t fully submerged.