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Coast Guard Rescues Lake Erie Ice Anglers Stranded on Floating Ice Floe

Coast Guard Rescues Lake Erie Ice Anglers Stranded on Floating Ice Floe

Featured image courtesy of Tate Harnack

On Monday morning, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued a group of 20 ice anglers who were trapped on a floating ice floe about 1 mile off Catawba Island State Park in Ohio.

Keep reading this article to learn all about the rescue mission and find out why this particular area is prone to separating ice sheets.

It was around 10:20 a.m. this morning, that the U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes Division received a call about a group of 20 or so ice fishermen stranded on a gigantic floating ice sheet that had broken off from the lake’s main ice formation in this area.

The sheet slowly drifted into open water, making it impossible for the anglers to reach the main ice.

According to the USCG, the division sent out one helicopter, three airboats, and an ATV to help rescue the stranded anglers and get them safely back to shore.

Furthermore, local authorities assisted the Coast Guard during the operation.

According to USA Today News, a total of nine people were rescued via the airboats, four more were rescued by local authorities, and seven of the ice fishermen were able to save themselves.

News 5 Cleveland reported that the rescue mission was completed at 12.41 p.m., about two and a half hours after the initial emergency call.

Thankfully, no injuries or deaths were reported today!

Why Did the Ice Sheet Start to Drift?

A screenshot from the Shores & Islands Ohio Lake Erie Live Feed (courtesy of Rae King)

Cold weather has finally arrived in the Midwest, and temperatures have been very low for about a week now. 

Nevertheless, the area around Catawba Island has only recently frozen over. It was a very fast freeze!

That fact alone makes the ice here still fairly sketchy and unpredictable, and ice anglers should remain vigilant and aware of the risks! 

Furthermore, large floating ice floes are fairly common around this Part of Lake Erie, which most ice anglers ought be aware of. 

According to Clyde resident and Lake Erie ice angler Rae King, whom I spoke to today, strong shifting winds are to blame for this phenomenon. 

“Anytime a SW wind is blowing there, it’s a no-go situation. It happens every year.”

Apparently, there had been a massive crack in the ice for a few days, and when those southwestern winds started to hit the area, the crack opened up, and the free-floating ice sheet began to get pushed out into the open water by the wind. 

Rae added, “The crack was already there; it opened up this morning.” 

The same crack (not yet opened) one day before, Sunday morning at 9:40 a.m. (Shores & Islands Ohio Lake Erie Live Feed screenshot courtesy of Rae King)

Had the anglers checked the wind forecasts for this morning, they would have surely decided to cancel their trip. Or did they perhaps simply and foolishly ignore it? 

No one knows but them, I guess.

This shows how essential it is to be careful, to plan one’s ice fishing trip, and to check weather forecasts and local ice reports from the day before. 

Especially when it comes to such an unpredictable part a lake!

Rae stressed this point a lot, mentioning that he “would never fish the area off Catawba during a south-southwest wind or first or last ice.”

Please remember that safety must always come first! 

With their behavior and actions, the 20 ice anglers endangered their own lives and those of their rescuers. 

A fishing trip isn’t worth risking your health or life for, or anybody else’s, for that matter. Please be aware of that always!

These Types of Incidents Happen a Lot Around Here

Unfortunately, people do not seem to care or learn because this isn’t the first rescue mission off Catawba Island.

News 5 Cleveland has reported three additional incidents over the last eight years! 

Back in 2016, a US Coast Guard pilot had to rescue two stranded ice fishermen here. 

The same area was the stage for another major rescue mission in 2019. This time, 12 ice anglers had to be rescued. 

Yet another took place in 2022, when a large ice floe broke off with 18 people snowmobiling on it. 

Below, you can watch News 5 Cleveland’s coverage of the 2022 rescue:

Again, it’s all about being aware and respecting Mother Nature! 

It’s okay to call off an ice fishing trip if you’re still around to enjoy the next one, isn’t it? 

Tight lines, and stay safe out there!

RELATED READING: 9 Helpful Tips on How to Stay Safe Ice Fishing

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