First responders warn of changing ice conditions after 200 anglers rescued on Upper Red Lake

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Beltrami County first responders were called Monday to help stranded anglers on Upper Red Lake, north of Bemidji.

A large piece of ice broke free from the main shoreline with upwards of 30 yards of open water trapping around 200 anglers out fishing, according to the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office.

A temporary bridge was set up in a narrow spot of separation across the water to safely get people off the ice in the southeast corner of the lake.

“They were able to do a bridge, which was really crazy but awesome at the same time,” said Shane Youngbauer, with Northwoods Fish Houses.

He said his outfitter business had 10 fishermen from the Twin Cities who were out on the ice in need of assistance.

“We’ve seen it basically for 20 years, this shifting and stuff like that, but not as quick and fast,” Youngbauer said.

“When the lake isn’t froze over like it is, it has a lot of these areas where the ice can shift,” Beltrami County Sheriff Ernie Beitel said. “With that big chunk of ice up there, it’s always cracking, always moving, and you see ice ridges being formed.”

The change in wind direction Monday on the lake caused the ice to crack, according to first responders.

Beyond checking the thickness of the ice, the sheriff offered other suggestions that anglers should do before heading north to ice fish early in the season.

“Being informed first talking to the resorts, if they are planning on venturing out from one of the resorts, talking to any of the locals from that area,” Beitel said. “Venturing out onto this ice understand that you have all of your safety gear with you.”

Some of the anglers stuck on the lake had to walk around 3 miles to get to the temporary bridge to get off the ice.

“We’re happy everybody got off the ice safely, we had no injuries, we even got their equipment off with them, which is nice,” Beitel said.