By Bill Hudson

WASHKISH, Minn. (WCCO) — Ice-fishing enthusiasts will flock to Upper Red Lake this time of year because the walleyes are hungry and biting.

It is a widely-held belief that the earliest ice produces the best fishing action — but they also know that it is also the most dangerous time of the year.

It was 29-year-old Zeth Knyphausen’s birthday weekend. The Stacy resident wanted to share some quality time on the ice with his girlfriend, Melissa Seidenstricker of Princeton.

On Monday, Zeth’s co-workers heard the news nobody expected.

“We were really shocked,” said Al Slowinski, Zeth’s supervisor at Wilson Tool. “He was planning the trip to head out there and, of course everyone told him to be safe.”

Zeth and Melissa were renting a sleeping cabin on the shore of Rogers’ on Red Resort on Upper Red Lake near Washkish.

Other anglers there reported ice conditions that varied greatly, anywhere from just a few inches to nearly ten.

But maps at the resort also warned of danger, where there were still areas of open water and wide cracks to just to the west of the landing.

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Zeth Knyphausen and Melissa Seidenstricker (credit: CBS)

It was also on Sunday when guests staying at the same resort videotaped an all-terrain vehicle in the process of being yanked from a hole in the ice where it had gone through.

It turned out that later that same day, Zeth and Melissa were reported missing and search efforts got underway.

The couple had not returned to the resort for check-out, and were believed to still be on the lake with a Polaris ATV.

“We were fearing that was what happened, but, you know, we also hoped for the best. Everyone was praying for him,” Al said.

Authorities located a hole in the ice later Monday afternoon, and an underwater sonar image showed what appeared to be an ATV. Two bodies were recovered a short time later.

“He was a hard-working kid, just very dedicated to his job,” Al said. “I can’t say enough about him, he’s going to be greatly missed.”

Wiping away tears, Jeni Lind said Zeth was a friendly face at the Stacy Sports Grille where she works.

“It’s a great loss,” Jeni said.

She said he had a love of fishing that he shared with his girlfriend — a passion that would sadly claim both of their lives.

“It’s tragic, it’s too early in the year for this,” Jeni said.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reports that ice conditions statewide are extremely dangerous.

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