66 Ice Fishermen Rescued from Ice Floes in Wisconsin

by Chris Haney

On Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard and other local agencies helped rescue 66 ice fishermen who became stranded on ice floes in northeastern Wisconsin.

Officials safely rescued dozens of ice fishermen from a bay area of Door County. An oncoming winter storm led to high wind speeds that pushed three ice floes away from shore, according to the Coast Guard. Additionally, the agency said that cracks developed in the ice floes between the fishermen and the shore before breaking away.

Rescuers utilized ice boats and helicopters to bring the ice fishermen to safety. Helicopter crews lowered rescue swimmers to the ice to help coordinate the four-hour rescue as iceboats arrived. The agencies’ combined efforts included Coast Guard Ice Rescue teams from Sturgeon Bay and Cutter Mobile Bay, as well as Air Station Traverse City. In addition, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources assisted during the extrication.

Fortunately, none of the 66 rescued fishermen sustained injuries, according to an Associated Press report. Commander Bryan Swintek, a search and rescue coordinator for Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan, spoke about the rescue.

“Today’s success is a direct result of effective training and the long-standing and close relationships with our agency partners in the greater Sturgeon Bay Area,” Cmdr. Bryan Swintek explained.

The Facebook account of U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City shared pictures of the recent rescue. The account also shared suggestions for ice fishermen and anyone else in the area who may run into severe weather conditions.

“No ice is “safe” ice. Always check the weather before heading out, use the buddy system, and wear your life jacket. Ensure you have a reliable form of communication such as a radio as well. The more prepared you are, the better,” the account wrote on Facebook.

Four Ice Fishermen in Green Bay Rescued After Ice Breaks

Last month, a similar incident occurred in Green Bay, WI when four ice fishermen became stranded on ice that broke away from the shoreline.

Emergency crews responded to distress calls around 12:15 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 11 near Point Comfort Road. After floating about 100 yards away from shore, the ice fishermen were rescued and brought back safely to land. None of the fishermen spoke out on the incident, but thankfully no one sustained any injuries.

Like many other outdoor activities since the COVID-19 pandemic began, ice fishing is predicted to see an uptick this winter. The sport has its dangers, which is obvious from the recent rescues in Wisconsin. However, with a little patience and precaution, ice fishing is a viable way to enjoy the outdoors.

“All needles are pointing to people wanting to get outside and do stuff this winter,” said Henry Drewes, a regional fisheries manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “And one of those things will be ice fishing.”

Earlier this year, hunting, fishing and all other outdoor sports saw significant increases. The pandemic shut down most entertainment options such as concerts, theme parks, bars, and music festivals. Therefore, people took up new hobbies or focused on old ones to pass the time during the pandemic.

Hunting license sales increased this season as well as the number of harvested deer. Furthermore, fishing licenses have also seen an uptick in recent weeks across America.

“I think people are going to be looking for ways to get out of the house,” Drewes explained. “Besides having restrictions on some of the things we can do, many people are working remotely from home. I think we’re going to need outdoor activity to help people keep their sanity.”