A father and son just wanted to spend the day together ice fishing. In just a few seconds, it was almost their last. An outing at Lake Oakwood almost turned deadly for Cory Stark. He survived, but now he has a warning for even the most experienced ice fishers.
Cory, a mechanic, is used to putting things back together. However, he faced a problem on Sunday that he almost couldn’t fix. To most people, a lake is just a lake. For Cory a lake holds a sea of memories for Cory and his dad, Rex.
“That was a monster of a Northern you caught,” Rex said.
They were hoping for a repeat.
“We haven’t fished together in four or five years. Come out of retirement to go fishing,” Rex said.
That’s why Sunday was so special for the father and son. They were on Lake Oakwood, about 10 minutes north of Brookings, armed with their fishing poles and decades of experience. As always, they checked the thickness of the ice. Five feet offshore, it was sturdy.
“We’re talking 12, 14 inches,” Rex said.
“We went out another 20 feet and I started swimming,” Cory said.
The ice broke under Cory’s feet, and he fell through.
“As soon as I went down, I put my hands out like this to catch. I tried getting up right away and I broke through the ice and yelled for my dad,” Cory said.
“All I heard was my name yelled. I turned around and just, oh no,” Rex said.
“I was looking at my dad right in the eyes and I was like, I don’t know. I was like, I can try to get out. He just crawls to me and he was going to give me a hand, but I got out before he got there,” Cory said.
“It was my son. I’d go in after if him I had to,” Rex said.
Falling through the ice hasn’t fazed Cory much. Actually, a few hours later, he was back on it.
Brady Mallory: “Right after you fell in?”
Cory: “Right after I fell in. I drove to Sioux Falls, drilled a hole, and went fishing,” Cory said.
Rex is, understably, still shaken up by witnessing his son, his fishing buddy, go in.
“The ice hole where he fell in, you can see where he crawled out to the right of it and the slide marks to the center,” Rex said.
When Cory Stark stepped on the ice, he was hoping to reel in some fish, but he walked away with something better: a second chance.
“Check ice before you go out, you know. If there’s nobody out there, start drilling holes and see how far, if it gets thick or if it gets thin,” Cory said.
We’ve had above average temperatures lately, so how do you know if the ice is thick enough to fish on? Game Fish and Parks recommends checking the ice multiple times, especially if you are moving around and going to different areas of the lake.
It’s also a good idea to bring rescue ice picks with you in case you fall through the ice. For more on ice fishing safety check our KELOLAND Original stories on our website.