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Today marks 10th anniversary of 134 anglers off Lake Erie ice floe

February 7, 2019

Today marks 10th anniversary of 134 anglers off Lake Erie ice floe

OAK HARBOR, Ohio – Ten years ago, on a warm and windy Saturday, an 8-mile-long ice floe broke away in Lake Erie. 134 anglers were stranded, then saved by the U.S. Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies in a rescue that made national news.

The foot-wide crack fishermen had crossed early that morning, on foot, snowmobiles or ATVs, had widened, swallowing up planks that had acted as makeshift bridges. A strong southwest wind pushed the western end of the ice flow north and east.

The first call for help came at about 10:45 a.m., when as many as 500 people were trapped on the ice floe.

Rescue workers walk across frozen Lake Erie as they return to shore at Crane Creek State Park in Oak Harbor, Mich., after rescuing a number of fishermen stranded on a slab of ice about 1,000 yards off shore, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009.  MADALYN RUGGIERO

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Many tried to race to shore, east toward the Davis Besse power plant and the Moose Lodge in Port Clinton. Some made a 12-mile journey to Catawba Island State Park.

A 65-year-old man from New Albany died after his snowmobile broke through the ice about 200 yards off shore. He was in about 3 feet of water when his son-in-law and friend helped him onto solid ice. But he died at the hospital later.

The rescue involved U.S. and Canadian coast guards, more than a dozen fire departments and local volunteers.

It followed several weeks of the best ice fishing locals said they had seen in decades, with about 1,000 anglers venturing out near the Lake Erie islands on weekends.

Hundreds of anglers returned to the ice the day after the rescue.

Air boat operators retrieved snowmobiles, ATVs and other vehicles left behind Saturday.

Thinking about ice fishing?

Remember that no ice is safe ice. But the Ohio Department of Natural Resources recommends ice be at least 4 inches thick before stepping on it. And you should never step over open water.

A coast guard rescue boat goes out on the ice at Crane Creek State Park in Oak Harbor, Ohio, to bring back materials after rescuing fisherman from the ice, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009. About 150 people were trapped on a slab of ice about 8 miles wide that had broken free and floated away from the Ohio shoreline of Lake Erie, the Coast Guard said Saturday.  Madalyn Ruggiero

Here are other ODNR tips:

Always fish with a partner or  in an area with several other anglers presentLet others know exactly where  you are going and when you plan to returnPlace a cell phone in a  plastic bag to protect it from moisture in case you get wetSprinkle sand around your  feet for better traction on the iceDress appropriately to  prevent hypothermia and wear a life jacket or flotation suit when walking  around on ice.Avoid areas where feeder  streams, springs, bridge pilings, docks, and dam structures since ice is  usually very thin thereIf you fall into the water,  remain calm.Slip your loose boots off to  better tread waterUse ice awls to pull yourself  out of the waterIf no ice awls are available,  call for help and try “swimming out” by letting your body rise up to firm  ice and crawl outStay flat, distributing your  weight on the iceKeep your clothes on once out  of the water. This will keep you insulated.If someone else falls in the  water: REACH using a  stick or fishing pole.THROW a rope or  PFD.ROW or push a  boat.GO call for  help.

Fire fighters and members of the US Coast Guard work together to move a boat to rescue stranded anglers on Lake Erie near Crane Creek State Park, in Oak Harbor, Ohio on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009, after a large crack in the ice stranded over 100 people on Lake Erie. (AP Photo, via Port Clinton News Herald, Jonathon Bird)  Jonathon Bird

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