Northern Minnesota Lake: 122 Fishermen Rescued from Ice Floe

On Friday evening, a total of 122 fishermen found themselves stranded on an ice floe that had detached from the main ice sheet on Upper Red Lake in northern Minnesota. The incident occurred about 30 feet from the shore.

Minnesota Lake: 122 Fishermen Rescued from Ice Floe

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With the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources cautioning the public about changing and uneven ice conditions.

The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office received an emergency call just before 5 p.m. CT, reporting that the fishermen were unable to return to dry land after the ice floe broke loose.

Bystanders on the scene attempted a rescue using a canoe, resulting in four individuals falling into the water. They were quickly rescued and brought back to the ice floe to warm up in a fishing shelter.

The first four fishermen were successfully rescued around 6:40 p.m. CT, and by 7:37 p.m., all 122 individuals had been safely brought back to the mainland.

The response was commended by Chris Mueller, the public information officer for the sheriff’s office, who made evacuation of 122 people in less than three hours from the first call in a rural area of the county.

The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources had issued warnings about poor ice conditions due to recent rain, wind, and temperatures running 10-15 degrees above seasonal averages.

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The region has experienced an abnormal warmth, making it difficult for ice to form and support activities like ice fishing. In the days leading up to the rescue operation, there were already signs of deteriorating ice conditions.

The sheriff’s office responded to a call on the same lake the day before the incident, where two fishermen had fallen through the ice on an ATV. While the men were able to get out of the water, they were stranded and could not return to their resort.

State officials, including Col. Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR Enforcement Division, addressed the importance of caution, stating that this year’s ice conditions are not typical, and individuals venturing onto the ice should check thickness frequently, pay close attention to the weather, and have a plan in case of emergencies.

Minnesota is wrapping up an abnormally warm December, with temperatures above normal nearly every day of the month.

The DNR reported that temperatures have been running 10-15 degrees above seasonal averages, making it difficult for the ice to become thick enough to support activities like ice fishing.

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issued a cautionary message to ice fishermen statewide. They told the need for caution due to changing and uneven ice conditions, addressing that ice conditions will remain poor until there’s a string of cold days to form new, clear ice.

The DNR urged individuals to stay on shore until there’s at least 4 inches of new, clear ice and to have all the proper safety equipment when venturing onto the ice.

The incident on Upper Red Lake is at least the fifth ice rescue on Beltrami County’s Upper Red Lake in recent weeks.

Previous incidents include a light plane breaking through the ice on December 19, up to 50 people stranded on December 18, and up to 200 needing rescue when a sheet of ice broke loose in November 2022.

The day before the ice floe rescue, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call on the same lake for two fishermen who had fallen through the ice on an ATV.

While the men managed to get out of the water, they were stranded and made it back to their resort uninjured.

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