Randy Schreier is a veteran when it comes to driving on ice. But even veteran's can get taken by surprise every now and then.
Schreier and his 2003 Dodge pickup went through the ice on Goose Lake on Saturday - an incident that caught the fishing veteran off guard and left him with a new appreciation for ice safety.
"I've been driving on lakes since I was a teen-ager; I've never been scared to drive on the ice," he said Monday. "I always figured it was safe, that if there was a foot or better of ice there's nothing to worry about. Now I know that lakes are never 100 percent safe."
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Matthew Loftness calls what happened on the lake northwest of Russell a perfect example of why the DNR urges anglers to use caution when moving around on ice, no matter how safe they think it is.
"It's a perfect time to remind people that ice is never 100 percent safe, especially at this time of the year," Loftness said. "Those aerators are still kickin'. He was lucky. It could've been a heckuva lot worse."
Schreier was one of many on the lake that day, but he got caught on a thin stretch of ice where there were only about 6 inches of ice beneath him. After the truck went in, he rolled his window down and stepped out onto the ice. Only the front end of the truck went into the water.
About 15 minutes before he went out, Schreier said another angler was driving out to his fishing house and had no problems.
"There were quite a few houses out there that morning," he said. "I had watched a guy go out there just 15 minutes before me. After I broke through, everyone else had to swing around about 150 yards further to the west to get around."
Loftness said the area where Schreier went in was surrounded by ice as thick as 25 inches. The problem, he said, was the stream current was running east to west from where the aerators are located, creating a long strip of thin ice.
"There were a lot of people driving on that ice," Loftness said. "He was just the unlucky soul that got caught. If you go north and south of the truck up to 25 feet, there's up to 17 inches of ice. And (Schreier) told me that where he was fishing at, there was probably close to 28 inches of ice.
Goose Lake is one of many Minnesota lakes that uses an aeration system during the winter. These systems keep water flowing in certain areas under the ice and are used to prevent the winterkill of fish, and in recent years have expanded to include shoreline protection and provide open water for waterfowl.
Aeration equipment ranges from subsurface bubbler systems to pump and baffle systems that aerate recirculated lake water or groundwater before discharge into lakes, a report from the DNR said. Bubbler systems are the most popular in Minnesota, and more than 200 aeration permits are issued statewide.
"There's 28 inches of ice out there," Schreier said. "You figure there's absolutely nothing to worry about. But it's not true; when you have those aeration systems, you still do have something to worry about."