A total of 122 anglers were successfully rescued from an ice floe that detached from the main ice on a northern Minnesota lake Friday evening, and no injuries were reported.
The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office said the fishermen were stranded when an ice floe broke loose from the main ice sheet on Upper Red Lake about 30 feet from shore and were unable to get back to dry land. Authorities were first called just before 5 p.m. CT.
While waiting for emergency responders, some bystanders attempted to use a canoe to rescue some of the stranded individuals. During the attempt, four people fell into the water, but were quickly rescued, according to the sheriff’s office.
The first four fishermen were then rescued around 6:40 p.m. CT and by 7:37 p.m. all fishermen had made it back to the mainland, the sheriff’s office reported in a Facebook post.
“Our first responders have had a lot of practice this year, and it is quite impressive we evacuated 122 people in less than 3 hours from the first call in a rural area of the county,” said Chris Mueller, public information officer for the sheriff’s office.
In a Facebook post Thursday, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said ice conditions across the state are changing frequently with uneven conditions.
“While the forecast looks good for making ice, ice conditions will remain poor until there’s a string of cold days to form new, clear ice. Please stay on shore until there’s at least 4 inches of new, clear ice. If you do head out, make sure to have all the proper safety equipment and check the ice thickness frequently,” DNR warned.
The sheriff’s office was called to the same lake Thursday for two fishermen who had fallen through the ice on an ATV, they said in a release. The men reported they were able to get out of the water but were stranded and could not get back to the resort they came from, the post said. Both men were able to get back and were uninjured.
The sheriff’s office added, “Recent rain and prolonged above freezing temperatures have caused ice conditions to deteriorate. There are many ice houses across the region that are falling through the ice that are not able to be removed because recovery teams are reporting the ice is too weak. They are hopeful with colder weather coming up they can safely remove the property. If you choose to go on the ice, check the thickness frequently and know where you are traveling. Check with area resorts prior to going on the ice.”
Minnesota is wrapping up an abnormally warm December, with temperatures above normal nearly every day of the month, the state’s Department of Natural Resources reported. Temperatures have been running 10-15 degrees above seasonal averages, making for poor conditions to create ice strong enough to support ice fishing in much of the state.
Upper Red Lake is a frequent site of ice rescues. A light plane broke through after landing on the ice December 19, up to 50 people were stranded December 18, and up to 200 needed to be rescued when a sheet of ice broke loose in November 2022, CNN affiliate WCCO reported.
Beltrami County is located in northwestern Minnesota.