The group of fishermen had been fishing in individual fish houses on Tuesday when they started floating off into the lake

By Joelle Goldstein
February 10, 2021 03:09 PM
fishermen rescued
Officials rescuing the fishermen
| Credit: Duluth Minnesota Fire Department

More than two dozen fishermen were rescued from a Minnesota lake this week after the ice they were standing on suddenly separated from the shore.

The Duluth Fire Department confirmed the incident in a press release, explaining that they received a call for a water emergency in Lake Superior just after 11 a.m. on Tuesday.

Officials were told that "a large group of fishermen had been fishing in individual fish houses when the ice that they had been on separated from shore," according to the release.

When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the group of anglers floating on a "large" ice sheet off of the Beacon Pointe housing development at 2100 East Water Street.

fishermen rescued
The fishermen on the ice floe
| Credit: Duluth Minnesota Fire Department

One of the fishermen, Austin Balem, told MPR News that he was standing on the ice when it suddenly broke off and started floating into the lake.

"We looked out, and everybody was running," he recalled to the outlet. "And then we started running towards shore and looked, and it was probably 100 yards out of open water."

"We were out there, having a good time, catching fish, and it just switched up that quick," he added. "You could definitely feel the wind switch on us really fast."

After arriving at the scene, rescue crews jumped into action, using boats to shuttle small groups of the fishermen into shore. Photos of the rescue were posted to the fire department's Facebook page.

Officials also managed to rescue an additional angler who was walking towards Park Point from the Water Street scene, the press release stated.

fishermen rescued
Authorities rescuing the fishermen
| Credit: Duluth Minnesota Fire Department

In total, 26 fishermen were rescued from the lake within an hour of the original call for help, the fire department confirmed. No injuries were reported, according to ABC News.

Balem noted to MPR News that he had to abandon hundreds of dollars' worth of gear.

"I'd rather have my life than my gear, though," he told the outlet.

Speaking to MPR News, Fire Chief Shawn Krizaj said he expects to see similar incidents each winter due to the lake's ice conditions, which often change from the winds.

"They can really be sketchy at times, with the wind action we get," he explained to the outlet. "One day, we can literally have 13 feet of stacked-up ice, the next day, 3 inches of clear smooth ice."

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The rescue comes just days after officials rescued 66 people from ice floes in Lake Michigan, Wisconsin, ABC News reported.

With the back-to-back incidents, authorities are now urging fishermen to be extra cautious when going out on the ice.

"The problem with ice fishing anywhere is it's only as safe as it is at a given moment in time," Krizaj said, according to ABC News.