RED LAKE, Minn. — Two Bemidji State University students are speaking out about their chilling experience after a fishing trip on Upper Red Lake took a turn for the worse and left them stranded on the ice.
Second-year Bemidji State University students Joe Titus and Dan Amundson were out on the lake Tuesday morning, Nov. 12, with some friends and other anglers they didn't know. They say they heard on social media that ice was between 7 and 8 inches thick and walleye season was open.
"Every indication that we had was that ice going to be safe to walk on. Today, actually, was a time big resorts were going to let out ATVs, four-wheelers, snowmobiles," Amundson said the day after he was rescued.
But the foot-wide crack they walked over when they started their venture quickly spread to 30 feet. The anglers believe a 20-mph tailwind may have separated the ice sheets.
It was only about 50 yards offshore, but still too dangerous for them to cross. The group decided to call for help.
"You're still on 8 inches of ice, which can float a car," Titus said. "It didn't seem like we were in danger. Everybody was calm."
Rescue crews managed to stand in the water while helping the anglers get across on boats.
"Obviously he's still in danger, being in that cold of water, but he wasn't in 12 feet of water or anything," Titus said.
Since photos of the rescue were posted online Tuesday, hundreds of people have weighed in, many questioning their judgment. But the anglers say they're not beginners.
"We all grew up in Minnesota. We've ice fished every single winter and I'd consider myself fairly experienced when it comes to frozen lakes. And I would've never guessed this would've happened," Amundson said.
The college students are warning everyone to stay off the ice until it's had a chance to firm up.
"You're never safe when you're on the ice. There's always precautions to take ... what we went through it was kind of a freak deal," Titus said.
As of Wednesday, all of the anglers are safe, thanks to the rescue crews that got them off the lake.
"I want to give a big thanks to Kelliher Fire and Rescue, Blackduck Fire and Rescue, Bemidji Fire and Rescue and the Beltrami County Sheriff's Department for coming out there and giving us a helping hand," said Amundson.