MINNEAPOLIS - Josh Johnson has always loved the outdoors, so when Little Rock Lake near Sauk Rapids froze by Nov. 15, he planned a day of fishing in his favorite spot 150 feet from shore.

"He was calling everyone to go out, and they pretty much told him, 'No,' that it was too early," said Josh's sister Heather Koch. "But he went out."

Josh went out and then went in to the water. He was screaming for help as he fell through the two-inch thick ice, then hanging onto a two by four he'd brought with him as rescuers struggled to reach him by boat. Once they got just 35 feet away, Josh slipped beneath the water. He was under for 40 minutes while searchers tossed a hook four times before they finally caught his leg.

"When I saw him come out of the water, he didn't look good," said Minnesota DNR Lt. Tony Musatov, who was one of the first responders. "That's what I'd call a good old-fashioned miracle."

It's a miracle because Josh's heart had stopped for nearly an hour.

"The doctors came out and said, 'We don't know if he's going to make it or not. Just go home,'" said Josh's father Bob Johnson.

Now at the University of Minnesota Medical Center Fairview, Josh is awake. He is improving and has no brain damage. His doctors say he's on track to make a full recovery.

"He shouldn't be here and he is," Bob Johnson said. "So it's going to be a whole new Christmas."

Josh is married with two young children and another on the way. His family is holding a benefit this weekend to help with his medical costs.

There is a benefit at the Media Ballroom this Sunday.

Donations are still being accepted for his family.

The public can stay up to date on his CaringBridge page.