Two people were able to jump clear of the pickup they were in before it sank to the bottom of Elm Lake on Friday, Jan. 26.
A Chevrolet half-ton pickup broke through the ice around noon after being driven over a heave in the ice, South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks Conservation Officer Nick Cochran said.
They were on the lake in advance of the Frederick Men’s Club Elm Lake Fishing Tournament, which drew 131 teams on Saturday, Jan. 27.
Neither the driver nor his passenger were injured, Cochran said. Several other anglers came to their aid, he said.
There’s a business in Watertown that specializes in puiling vehicles from the water, Cochran said. While it happens more often in Day and Clark counties, he said this is the first vehicle to break through the ice on a Brown County lake this winter.
Elm Lake is in the northwest corner of Brown County near the North Dakota border.
Ice isn’t as thick as usual
Though temperatures plummeted below zero in early January, the cold snap was followed by unseasonably warm temperatures. Cochran said the abbreviated cold snap wasn’t long enough to create the thick ice cover that’s typical for this time of year.
He said many lakes have areas where the wind has ripped open the ice, creating heaves, jagged ice and other weak spots.
“The ice still varies quite a bit,” he said.
At this time of the year, ice on lakes is typically 2 feet thick, Cochran said. But the thickness of the ice on Elm Lake is now between 10 and 17 inches. He said folks who go on the ice should use a lighter means of transportation like an ATV or snowmobile or park on the shore and drill a couple of test holes before driving onto lakes.