An ice floe became a nightmare for dozens of fishermen in Lake Erie on Saturday afternoon after rising temperatures caused the chuck of ice to float away from shore.
The U.S. Coast Guard was forced to rescue 46 ice fishermen near Catawaba Island, Ohio, after the sheets broke free and began floating away with them on it.
When the ice began to break and separate from the shore, about 100 other fishermen were able to get back on land. The Coast Guard was called to rescue the remaining fishermen with help from Catawaba Island Fire, Put-in-Bay Fire and Southshore Towing.
“As soon as we got our lines down a guy started screaming and that’s when we knew something had happened,” fisherman James Gibelyou told Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS.
“Running across, guys were falling in,” Gibelyou continued. “I decided to stay back; I knew better to wait for rescue.”
Gibelyou said he waited a couple hours for rescue and floated almost 2 miles out into the lake.
There were no injuries reported.
The high temperature in Sandusky, just a few miles south of Catawaba Island, was a relatively balmy 41 degrees on Saturday. The high just four days earlier was 19 degrees.
The water temperature in Lake Erie was 33 degrees off Toledo, Ohio, on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.
Ice fishing is a popular pastime along the northwest coast of Ohio. Walleye, yellow perch and smallmouth bass are all common in the western basin during the winter season, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.
“As temperatures begin to rise, the Coast Guard strongly urges people not to go out onto ice,” the service said in a statement. “Ice may look safe but it is difficult to determine the thickness visually and the increase in warm weather will continue to melt and weaken the ice.”
Everyone was rescued by 11:15 a.m., the Coast Guard said.