MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Beltrami County deputies rescued at least 11 stranded anglers after the ice they were on drifted away from shore.

They were all ice fishing on Upper Red Lake.

While parts of the lake had as much as 7 to 8 inches of ice, it still wasn’t safe.

Zach Werner, who lives in the Brainerd Lakes area, wanted to go ice fishing Tuesday.

“We drove up from Pine River it was about a two and a half hours,” Werner said.

Zach and his friend chose Upper Big Red Lake where he heard reports that the fishing was great.

“My friend and I, we walked about a mile and a half out, checking the ice out along the way as we went. It was about seven to eight inches consistently,” Werner said. “We got out there, we started fishing, everything was fine.”

Then they heard ice cracking.

“When we heard one of the big cracks, our bobbers went from being straight down to completely going to the right under the ice, like there was a current,” Werner said.

Someone had to tell them, and at least nine other anglers, that they were on ice that had broken off.

“We were starting to float out,” Werner said.

The Beltrami Sheriff’s Department responded with boats and divers.

“Everybody next to the crack was in great spirits, everybody was smiling,” Werner added.

“It wasn’t scary by any means, pressure ridges happen, and basically you always have that risk that they can split apart. In this instance it just happened to split apart,” Werner said.

Zach is right, cracks or pieces of ice breaking off can always happen. The DNR warns that ice is never 100% safe.

The DNR tells WCCO, “You need a minimum of 4 inches for walking or ice fishing, 5 to 7 inches for snowmobiles, and at least 8 inches for a small car.”

Esme Murphy

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