Fisherman Who Fell Through Ice Warns Others - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Fisherman Who Fell Through Ice Warns Others

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By: Claire Powell


Ice can be ten inches thick in one spot and in another it could be less than an inch.

For fishermen like Jack Heiss of Des Moines, who has ice fished for more than twenty years, this is a favorite hobby.

For Heiss, Friday was off to a good start as he set up camp on Big Creek Lake in Polk City.

He drilled through almost ten inches of ice for his first fishing hole. He walked less than twenty feet away to drill another when he fell through the ice.  

"I checked the ice too before we went on it, not taking it for granted. One minute I was standing, the next I was falling through," said Heiss.

He had his ice picks in his hands and somehow pulled himself out of the icy water. He began to roll away from the hole as his girlfriend threw him a rope to grab. Other fishermen on the lake called Polk City Fire and Rescue who transported Heiss to a hospital with a broken leg.

"I'm thankful there were a lot of good guys out there on the ice. I didn't get all of their names, but they know who they are. I'm thankful they were there," said Heiss.

This isn't the first report of people falling through the ice this year. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources said the early cold snap may have given people a false hope that the ice is thicker than it really is.  

"We're seeing all sorts of ice thickness around the state," said Kevin Baskins, Iowa DNR. "You never go out expecting something bad to happen, that's why you need to be ready for it when it does."

Ice thickness has ranged from 4-6 inches in southern Iowa to over 12 inches thick in parts of northern Iowa.

The DNR said to cut multiple holes around your tent to check the consistency of the ice. It's also very important to pack safety equipment like ice picks, rope and floatation devices.

Let Jack's story serve as a reminder that no matter how long you've been on the ice, it can still be deceiving.

"Just be careful, wear your safety gear, don't let your kids out of your site," said Heiss. "There's no such thing as safe ice."

The DNR recommends a minimum of four inches of ice for fishing and at least five inches for snowmobiles and ATV's.

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