By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MADISON LAKE — After two days of freezing cold weather, ice anglers, snowmobilers and others who enjoy activities on area lakes are being warned to watch for open water.
Mary Buschkowsky and her husband, Dennis, keep the official record for when Madison Lake freezes over. She said she was a little surprised to hear the narrows on the lake were wide open Thursday even though midday temperatures had dipped below zero.
“It should be froze solid,” she said. “If it’s this cold, I can’t imagine it being open.”
The narrows has actually been opening up during cold weather for several years, said Jim Sheppard. He lives on Point Pleasant, which is on the north end of the narrows. When it gets really cold, the ice along the narrows buckles up. Then when it warms up a bit or gets windy, the ice pulls back, leaving open water, Sheppard said.
Sunshine on exposed rocks can melt ice quickly, too, he said.
But the open ice during this time of year is a more recent phenomenon.
“I don’t remember this every opening up when I was a kid,” he said.
Jo Schultz, who lives on the other side of the narrows on Stoney Point, said she’s concerned a decent snowfall could hide the dangers.
“With the open water, no one is trying to go through there,” she said. “The worst part is if it snows over, a snowmobiler might try to shoot across.”
Bob Drengler, 68, of Mankato found out the hard way Thursday night how dangerous the narrows on Lake Washington can be. He was driving a Cadillac over the narrows when the car broke through and partially sank. The men who helped rescue Drengler estimated he was on top of his car, wet from the waist down, for about 20 minutes before he was taken to safety.
The Le Sueur County Sheriff’s Department put out a notice Friday saying that Lake Washington isn’t the only lake in the county with open water.
Gorman Lake (Lake Cordova) has open water that stretches across the south side of the lake. Clear Lake at Lexington has open water on the north side due to an aeration system. And German Lake has open water on the southwest side in an area measuring about 60-by-300 feet.
“The Le Sueur County Sheriff’s Office has always taken the stand that no ice is safe and traveling on ice is dangerous and at your own risk,” Sheriff Tom Doherty said in a news release. “Please use extreme caution when traveling on any area lake.”
The fact is there are a lot of anglers who drive out on area lakes regularly. Hundreds of people are expected to be at the Minnesota State University’s Big Bobber Ice Fishing Contest today.
Ryan White, owner of White’s Corner Bait in Madison Lake, said it doesn’t hurt to stop by a bait shop to find out the latest information about area lakes. He said some snow would help so people who know the area lakes well could leave tracks for others to follow.
“And don’t venture out at night,” he said. “I never recommend that.”