Ice is an unpredictable surface for fishing. Some days are slick, others are slushy, and when the snow piles up it is tough trekking. When ice cracks, fractures, or forms pressure ridges, islands can be formed that strand Icemen. Many of us have wriggled out across fallen trees or logs to get onto ice from a lakeshore.
Years ago, I was perch fishing on Canyon Ferry Lake. We walked from the Silo’s boat ramp up to Hole in The Wall. The fishing was great and by 3 pm we were trekking back. Suddenly, we were stranded due to a big crack of open water. The gap was well over 30 feet wide in the 12-inch-thick ice. There was no way we were getting over it.
We followed the crack towards the shore, but it went on as far as we could see. Several other groups of icemen were in the same dilemma. One old guy just sat down and said that once the wind stopped, the gap would drift back together. He said it would happen at sunset. We all sat around and shared stories until sunset. The wind stopped and within 15 minutes the lakes currents pushed the ice crack back together. We all hopped over the crack and were safely on our way.
Another ice island formed on a lake in Minnesota recently. Upper Red Lake in northern Minnesota was frozen enough for a wave of Icemen to start the season. Over 200 anglers were out on the 5-inch-thick ice. Suddenly, the ice cracked and broke away from the shore. A 90-foot opening of water formed, and the 911 calls began around 11am.
Rescue teams managed to create a bridge across the opening so that the horde of Icemen could get to safety. Fish were also allowed to be carried across. Small wheelers and Icemen trekked afoot off the ice island. By 4pm, the island was cleared, and no one was hurt. Officials have closed the lake and are monitoring the ice.
No fish is worth drowning or freezing over!