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Another blue state day, another northern Minnesota ice rescue: This time, 50 stranded anglers brought to shore

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Leroy N. Soetoro

Jan 5, 2024, 4:17:10 PMJan 5

WILLIAMS, Minn. — Curt Quesnell was fishing east of Long Point on the
south shore of Lake of the Woods on Monday afternoon when he got a message
with a short video from a buddy that a large crack had opened up less than
a mile off Long Point, and several anglers were stranded on the north side
of the crack.

While Quesnell wasn’t far from the crack, he was on the shoreline side of
the fissure set up over about 25 feet of water. It wasn’t where he wanted
to be fishing, Quesnell said, but the crack that opened up at about 3 p.m.
Monday, driven by strong south winds, had prevented him from fishing where
he wanted to fish pretty much all winter.

“I put the phone down, and then I got another message saying that a crack
opened up, and people are stranded on the other side,” said Quesnell, who
lives near Long Point and fishes the big Canadian border lake nearly every
day, posting regular updates on his popular NCOR Outdoors YouTube Channel.

In a news release issued late Tuesday afternoon, the Lake of the Woods
County Sheriff’s Office said it was notified shortly before 2:30 p.m.
Monday that a male had gone through the ice with his ATV about a mile off
Long Point but was able to get out with no injuries.

Shortly before 3 p.m., the sheriff’s office received a report that 20 to
25 people were stranded on the north side of the crack in the ice. At that
time, Long Point Resort was using a 16-foot boat to shuttle people across
the open water to the shoreline side of the crack, where they then were
taken to shore by snowmobile or light utility vehicle, the sheriff’s
office said.

Personnel from the Lake of the Woods County Sheriff’s Office, the
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Baudette Fire and Rescue and
Lake of the Woods Ambulance responded, the news release said. Sheriff’s
office and DNR rescuers then used airboats and UTVs to assist in returning
the stranded anglers — about 50 in all — to shore.

“You know, you hear about these ice rescues all the time, but it was
actually a pretty relaxed deal,” Quesnell said of Monday’s rescue effort.

The crack, also known as a “pressure ridge” in the ice fishing lexicon,
should seal back up as soon as the wind switches to the north, Quesnell
predicted. Based on photos of the rescue circulating on social media,
Quesnell said he estimates the crack was about 100 feet wide in the area
where the boats were crossing.

Pressure ridges aren’t unusual, especially on large bodies of water such
as Lake of the Woods, as ice sheets are constantly moving. It’s best to
avoid pressure ridges where they occur, however.

Quesnell, who is also a fishing guide, said he has canceled all of his
winter guide trips so far because he hasn’t been able to safely get to the
area he wants to fish.

Satellite imagery on Monday showed a crack extending all the way from the
west side of Lake of the Woods near Springsteel north of Warroad and
northeast past Long Point nearly to the Ontario border several miles north
of Lighthouse Gap. Another large crack could be seen in Buffalo Bay in
Manitoba waters and from Stony Point at the southern tip of the Northwest
Angle and east past Garden Island to the Ontario border.

The ice in the area where he was fishing, which is within a couple hundred
yards of the crack off Long Point, was about 12 inches thick, Quesnell

“We haven’t gained any ice for three weeks,” he said. “And the ice is
actually starting to get a little chunky when you drill it out. It’s not
all powdery like ice should be when you’re grinding it out of (the hole).

“It’s not real good — it just has to get cold, that’s all.”

Monday’s rescue is the latest in a string of ice-related incidents that
have occurred in recent days, the result of unseasonably warm temperatures
and late December rain that further deteriorated ice conditions.

On Friday night, emergency crews using boats and airboats rescued 122
anglers from an ice floe on the southeast side of Upper Red Lake in
Beltrami County after the ice detached from the main shoreline. The
rescue, one of several so far this winter on Upper Red, prompted the
Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office to issue a bulletin later that evening
prohibiting motorized vehicles from going on the ice until further notice.

Thursday morning, a 78-year-old Wisconsin man drowned when the Bombardier
tracked vehicle in which he was riding broke through about 12 inches of
ice near Flag Island on Lake of the Woods’ Northwest Angle while en route
to a fishing spot. The driver and six other passengers were able to escape
the vehicle.

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