Which is worse, watching a 20-pound bass fall off your line or witnessing your 6,000-pound pickup crack through the ice and sink to the bottom of the lake? While a diehard fisherman may mourn the fish that got away, the majority of us are going to be much more concerned about the missing truck. Vehicles go through the ice more often than you would think, though no one keeps an official tally. But in states where ice fishing is big, dozens of vehicles go through the ice in a normal winter. Minnesota tracks fatalities out on the ice. In 2013 all four deaths were the result of vehicles going through thin ice. Since they started keeping statistics in 1976, 49 deaths have involved vehicles that plunged through the ice. In some cases, dozens of vehicles sink all at once. At a recent ice fishing tournament at Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin 36 ice fishers came back to find their vehicles through the ice. While most trucks were only up to their wheels in water, 18 ended up fully submerged.
Meanwhile, at the bottom of the lake
While you can always catch another fish, extracting your vehicle from the lake is going to be a lot more difficult and much more expensive. Even if your car is worth less than the cost of retrieving it, you have to do so. Extracting your vehicle is your responsibility and required by law in most states. Spokesperson Joanne Haas with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says, "In Wisconsin, owners have 30 days to remove their vehicles from the water. We do work with the responsible parties if weather or unsafe ice conditions delay the retrieval." Most states have similar laws in place. How do you get a three-ton car or truck off the lake floor, while not dumping the rescue vehicle into the water as well? Very carefully and very slowly.