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Some 50 anglers rescued after ice breaks on Minnesota lake

RED LAKE -- Nearly 50 people had to be taken off Upper Red Lake Monday after several sheets of ice broke up on the big lake, stranding them with their ice houses. Everyone is now off the lake, according the Beltrami County Emergency Management of...

Upper Red Lake
Nearly 50 people had to be taken off Upper Red Lake Monday after several sheets of ice broke up on the lake, stranding them with their ice houses. (JILLIAN GANDSEY | FORUM NEWS SERVICE)

RED LAKE - Nearly 50 people had to be taken off Upper Red Lake Monday after several sheets of ice broke up on the big lake, stranding them with their ice houses.
Everyone is now off the lake, according the Beltrami County Emergency Management office.
The fish houses are located on the east shore of the big lake, and wind and poor ice conditions caused existing cracks to widen and ice sheets to break free, officials said.
Chris Hachey of Cloquet said his group of four anglers first noticed something was going on at about 10 a.m. when their fishing lines were at an angle and not straight down.
“I thought that was odd because Red Lake doesn’t have any current. Then we looked toward shore and we could see the big crack opening up,” Hachey said.
Northeast winds at the time were gusting to 30 mph at the Waskish airport, according to the National Weather Service. The chasm of open water eventually widened to about 300 yards.
Hachey had driven onto the ice with a 4-wheel ATV Sunday night and found the ice to be 5.5 inches thick. “And we caught a bunch of walleyes so we decided to try it again (Monday) morning before we went home,” he said.
Hachey said a resort charged anglers to access the lake promising ice conditions were safe. He was unaware that parts of the lake - the largest lake entirely within Minnesota - remained unfrozen.
“Now I don’t think I’ll ever go early ice fishing again,” he said. “We had no idea there was any open water out there.”
Rescue personnel in cold-water survival suits arrived with a snowmobile and a rubber raft and found a safe route for the stranded anglers to walk off. Boats and a hovercraft were on standby but not needed, Hachey said. Rescuers eventually went back and recovered the angler’s ATV and other gear.
“It’s a good thing we got off when we did because right after we crossed one crack it opened up to 40 feet wide,” Hachey said.
Responding to the scene were Kelliher Fire with their rescue equipment, Blackduck Ambulance, Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office Deputies, Minnesota Department of Natural Resource officers and the Bemidji Fire Department, along with several resort owners. A safe path to retreat from the lake was established along with the equipment made available.
The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office advised that no one should be on the ice at this time because of the dangerous winds and fissures throughout the area. The next several days will continue to be a dangerous combination for those wanting to fish, the office said. A satellite photo shows the majority of Upper Red Lake is open and there are extreme cracks in the area where very light ice remains, officials said.
“For your safety and the safety of our emergency responders please stay off the ice,” a release said.

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