The Beltrami County, Minnesota, Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) came to the rescue of hundreds of anglers recently after they became stuck on a chunk of ice that had broken free from the main shore of Upper Red Lake.
According to the BCSO, around 200 anglers were stranded by roughly 30 yards of open water when the sheet of ice they were on suddenly broke off on the morning of November 28.
BCSO deputies and first responders arrived on the scene along with several water rescue agencies, to include Kelliher Fire and Rescue, Red Lake Nation Fire, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota State Patrol, Blackduck Ambulance, Lake of the Woods Sheriff’s Office. Airboats, water rescue boats, ATVs and drones were deployed during the rescue.
With the help of drones to visualize the ice shelf, responders located a narrower area of the separation near the Upper Red Lake north of JR’s Corner. There, first responders and deputies laid down a temporary bridge to connect the two ice shelves. They then used the bridge to safely evacuate the fishermen.
The evacuation lasted around two hours in total, and no injuries were reported.
Emergency response management crews sent an emergency text alert to locals in case they were not aware of the situation.
“Due to the urgent nature of getting people off the ice and the likelihood that several groups were unaware of the separation, Beltrami County Emergency Management utilized a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) through the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System to notify of the evacuation. The WEA allowed notifications to be sent to cellphones of those who are not enrolled in the local notification system and provided GPS coordinates of the evacuation site,” BCSO Chief Deputy Jarrett Walton wrote on Facebook.
The BCSO warned that “early season ice” can be very unpredictable and advised for “extreme caution” and checking the thickness of ice before heading out.
Nicole Biagi, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ ice safety coordinator, recommends a minimum 4–6 inches of ice for any activity on the ice and to check ice thickness every 150 feet.
“It can be temperatures, snow cover, wind, current, depth of the lake,” Biagi said. “Even if you see somebody else out on the lake or river, body of water, it doesn’t mean that it’s safe. They may not have checked properly, and because conditions are changing constantly, maybe they did check and now it’s not safe.”