Winter storm causes trouble for ice anglers stuck on Minnesota lakes

There are more lingering frustrations from this weekend’s winter storm, especially for ice anglers trying to squeeze in one more weekend of ice fishing before the end of the season. 

Some anglers on Minnesota lakes woke up Sunday morning to find themselves stuck and unable to drive off the lakes because of heavy blowing snow. 

“We’re trying to make the best out of it, but it’s kind of hard,” said Kailee Gallagher from a frozen Lake Mille Lacs.

Gallagher went out for fun and fishing Friday evening with her boyfriend, Matt Perry. They were joined by Perry’s sister, Olivia, her boyfriend Zac Lovera and their four-month-old baby, Nova. 

“We woke up at probably 6 a.m. and realized that there was no way our cars were going to get out because the snow had blown over and it was probably, like, four feet,” Gallagher said. 

The weather was so severe that two plows broke trying to pave the way for people to drive off the ice. 

“Just our sanity - I'm anxious, I know everyone is just kind of having anxiety. It's not enjoyable,” Olivia Perry said. 

The Aitkin County Sheriff says some anglers ignored warnings about the forecasted storm. On their Facebook page, they offered to come get anyone needing help with an airboat, leaving fish houses and vehicles behind. 

The couples decided to stay and wait with the food and supplies they had, along with other items delivered by nearby resorts. They had enough propane to keep the house warm for the baby. 

By Monday afternoon, a plow had arrived to help open a path off the lake. 

Meantime, farther north on Lake of the Woods, Jim Philp, his son and his son’s girlfriend were a few of dozens or more who got stranded on the ice. 

“It was blowing extremely hard, so we were trying to pack up and get out of here because stuff was blowing shut, and we got out of our fishing spot into the plowed road and got stuck,” Philp said. 

Crews from the Lake of the Woods County Sheriff’s office worked around the clock to rescue people who were stranded. At one point, a handful of anglers were missing but all have now been accounted for. 

The strong winds caused drifting on the lake’s ice roads, locking in vehicles and fish houses. 

“I had no idea it was going to get that windy and stuff. We were supposed to leave Sunday morning and get out of here before the 20-below weather came and the wind just took me by surprise,” Philp said.