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Around 200 people fishing on Upper Red Lake were rescued Monday after a large sheet of ice broke free from the main shoreline, according to authorities.

The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office said the separation happened around 11:30 a.m., with roughly 30 yards of open water stranding people in the southeast portion of the lake, north of JR's Corner.

With rescuers determining several groups on the ice were likely unaware of the unfolding emergency, the county sent an emergency alert notification to cell phones to provide GPS coordinates of the evacuation bridge.

The Wireless Emergency Alert system allowed for notifications to be sent to phones not enrolled in the local notification system, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The rescue effort concluded around 2:30 p.m., with the Sheriff's Office estimating 200 individuals were evacuated from the ice.

Airboats, water rescue boats, ATVs, drones and a temporary bridge were all deployed as part of the operation.

"The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office reminds those who are thinking of heading on the ice that early season ice is very unpredictable," the agency shared in a press release. "Extreme caution should be used when heading on the ice and to check the thickness frequently to ensure an adequate amount of ice."

Kelliher Fire and Rescue, Red Lake Nation Fire, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota State Patrol, Blackduck Ambulance, Lake of the Woods Sheriff’s Office and local resorts assisted with Monday's rescue. 

Similar rescues have happened on other large regional lakes in recent years:

  • In December 2018, 35 fishermen were rescued in Duluth after a huge ice chunk broke off in Lake Superior.
  • In February 2019, 100 anglers were rescued on Lake of the Woods after weather conditions prevented many from escaping.
  • In February 2021, a four-hour rescue resulted in 66 anglers rescued from an ice floe on Lake Michigan.

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