Blizzard Strands Hundreds of Ice Fishermen on Minnesota Lakes

Depending on your level or preparedness — and your love of fishing — being stranded in an ice fishing house for a couple days could be heaven or hell.

Blizzard Strands Hundreds of Ice Fishermen on Minnesota Lakes

Plowed roads on the ice of massive Mille Lacs Lake in north-central Minnesota were quickly blown closed due to winds in excess of 50 mph. Anglers in ice shelters were left stranded on Sunday and Monday waiting for plow trucks to rescue them. (Photo courtesy of Connie Nordby, Kare11 Facebook.)

We all have phone apps that provide up-to-date information regarding current and predicted weather. And while forecasting rain or snow isn’t an exact science, today’s meteorologists are almost always spot-on when it comes to predicting temperature and wind direction/speed.

For these reasons, I could only shake my head as I watched the news during the last couple days. Hundreds of ice anglers in my home state of Minnesota were stranded on frozen lakes due to high winds and blowing snow. Of course, one or two anglers getting stuck in their pickup on a small lake isn’t going to make the evening news, but when it involves hundreds of fishermen on two the state’s biggest lakes (Mille Lacs and Lake of the Woods), everyone takes notice. Click here to read the news story from Kare11 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

To get a feel for what the conditions were like for the stranded anglers, check out the Kare11 video below. One word comes to mind: dangerous.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was also ice fishing this past weekend. But I kept one eye on my ice fishing rod and one on my weather app. And I did the math on when I should get off the lake, and when the snow and high winds would start along my 150-mile trek home across western Minnesota. Did I have perfectly dry roads for my drive Saturday evening from 5 to 8 p.m.? Certainly not. Did I get caught in a whiteout conditions due to a blizzard? No. However, if I’d fished another 4 hours, the situation would have been a lot different. I might still be digging out of a snow drift.

This past Saturday, the author was fishing with his son and one of his son’s buddies. Due to deep snow, the group used snowshoes to access a small perch pond in western Minnesota. They left the pond several hours before a predicted blizzard and were home safe and sound before dangerous weather struck the state.
This past Saturday, the author was fishing with his son and one of his son’s buddies. Due to deep snow, the group used snowshoes to access a small perch pond in western Minnesota. They left the pond several hours before a predicted blizzard and were home safe and sound before dangerous weather struck the state.

Just in case you need a visual about how bad it can get with drifting snow, check out the photo below. This pic was taken in southern Minnesota near the town of Austin, not far from the Iowa border. If you live in the South and the photo is confusing, what you’re seeing is the view from inside a garage looking out. The garage door is opened. In other words, it’s a wall of snow, about 8 feet high. (The object in the bottom left of the pic is a snowblower, which won’t make a dent in this homeowner’s problem.) This is the reason several major highways were closed across Minnesota, and more than 600 motorists were stranded on roads. Not good.

Grab a shovel? Think a snowblower can handle the job? No and no. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota meteorologist Blaise Keller.)
Grab a shovel? Think a snowblower can handle the job? No and no. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota meteorologist Blaise Keller.)

The latest news reports indicate that all ice anglers who wanted to leave Mille Lacs can now do so. Plow trucks are still trying to get to approximately 100 stranded ice fishermen on Lake of the Woods, which is on the border of Minnesota and Ontario.

Lesson learned? Enjoy the great outdoors, but be careful. When the weatherman says that 50-mph winds and whiteout conditions will strike by such-and-such hour, plan ahead and be home by then. In fact, leave a few hours to spare, too. It’s not worth risking your life for a fish.

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