Loch Adventures Steve and Al Loch make the most of winter weather


Brothers Steve and Al Loch may be well known as the owners of Loch Jewelers in Monticello, but what you may not know is the pair of Maple Lake residents are also avid outdoorsmen who have been finding ways to enjoy the cold winter temperatures for decades.
Steve Loch is a member of the Wright County Divers, a group of 15-20 local divers that enjoy scuba diving on area lakes all 12 months of the year. Al Loch, meanwhile, is the new Scout Master of Maple Lake Boy Scout Troop #219. Along with brother, Steve, the two have been taking Eagle Scouts on an outdoor winter camping trips to the Boundary Waters for many years.
Scuba Diving
There are 67 lakes in Wright County with boat landings and Steve has dived in all of them—often times with friend, Paul Jude. The pair went on a 5-year quest to complete this mission, which Paul refers to as Steve’s bucket list.
Maple Lake is among their favorite local lakes, with a maximum depth of 52 feet and a rock bar only 18-feet deep about a half-mile off the beach.
Regardless of what lake they dive in, there are treasures to be found. Among the found treasures are vehicles, boat engines, hundreds of boat anchors, ice chisels, tackle boxes and one rather odd find—the door to a safe.
“Every lake seems to have a car or a tractor or a combine in it,” Steve said.
The Wright County Divers have also been approached to help find specific things that have been dropped, including a pair of expensive eyeglasses, and a fishing rod that was hidden in the weeds. Once, they came across a waterproof cell phone and brought it to the surface. They called the last-dialed number and were able to locate the owner and return the phone.
In addition to simply exploring, the divers check lake depth, structure, water temperature, and make note of any signs of milfoil or zebra mussels.
To dive in the winter, the group cuts a 10-foot triangle in the ice with a 26-inch chainsaw with a special blade or a 36-inch ice saw. They then push the ice underwater and off to the side. When they leave, they move the ice back into place and put orange tape around it with “Thin Ice” signs all around. A couple days later, when the ice has frozen over again, the signs are removed.
An average open-water dive is about an hour long, while diving under the ice is limited to about 25 minutes. With the proper gear, the temperature in the water is comfortable.
Steve has been diving since the 1970s and claims to have taught Jude all he knows about diving…then Jude went on to learn more and became a Certified Dive Master eight years ago. Jude often teaches diving classes at Aquadventure Dive & Photo Center in Maple Grove, where he works as a teachers assistant.
“People may go golfing or boating, but we go diving,” Steve said. “I like the adventure of seeing things other people don’t see. You can see different time periods down there.”
Jude said that the classes he teaches are discovery dives for fun, and if people enjoy it they can move forward and get certified. Aquadventure has a heated indoor pool for practice and training. Another member of the Wright County Divers, Lester Hill, is also a Master Diver, and Loch, Jude and Hill are all Certified Ice Divers.
Jude said that after a person is certified, they can get set up for diving for about $1,200, or can choose to rent equipment instead of buying. Additional certification is needed for diving in caves, exploring shipwrecks and diving in deep waters.
Steve said he goes on about 100 dives a year (averaging two a week) and about 80 of them are on local lakes. Steve and Paul said their favorites are Clearwater Lake, Lake Sylvia, Cedar Lake, Maple Lake and Charlotte Lake.