Two fishermen were lucky to have a DNR conservation officer around or their trip out onto the ice at West Lake near Osceola could have turned deadly.

Officer Michael Miller was on routine patrol last Friday when he spotted the two men on the lake and was concerned for their safety. “I yelled at ’em and asked them how much ice they were on and they told me ‘three inches.’ I told them that they needed to get off immediately and go the direction that they had come because it held them first time to get out there,” Miller says.

One of the men made it safely off the ice, but the other broke through the ice about 10 yards from shore. He went to the truck and got a “throw bag” and the fisherman who made it to shore helped.

“And we threw the throw bag to him — which is basically just a rope attached to a bag — and we were able to, after some trying, to pull him out and up on the ice and ultimately were able to get him to shore and up on shore,” Miller explains. ” From there we were able to have the ambulance come and take a look. I was concerned about exposure, just exposure to the cold temperatures.” He says the man he was losing feeling in his hands and his hands were hurting. Miller says the cold in these situations can be a bigger threat than drowning.

“Water temperatures this time of year aren’t going to be anywhere close to above 40 degrees. In fact, most of them are probably hovering around freezing this time of year — 35 degrees,” He says. “So, it doesn’t take long when the body is exposed to water, you can lose body temperature a lot more quickly than air. So, it’s a huge concern.” Miller says this ended up being the best case scenario for a bad situation.

“If they’d have stayed on that ice for a couple of more hours, who knows where they would have fallen in. Luckily I’ve had some training and had the equipment to help them out. And not everybody has that luxury of having a conservation officer close when they do fall in,” Miller says. Miller, who covers Clarke and Decatur counties and was happy to have a good result.

“Unfortunately I’ve had situations that haven’t turned out as good, those are always sad ones to be around,” Miller says. “I’ve never pulled somebody out of the ice and had them survive. So, this was kind of first for me, thankfully.” Miller says the men were from Polk County, but he did not get their names.

Ice fishing is not recommended over about the southern third of Iowa. Anglers are advised to use extreme caution during the latter part of the winter as the longer days, thaw-freeze cycles and warmer winds begin to weaken the ice.