Ice fishers avoid cold water after ice on Lake Winnipeg opens up underneath their tent

Todd Link and his ice-fishing buddy were almost in cold water on Lake Winnipeg Saturday afternoon after the ice opened up right underneath their tent. 

Link, a 31-year-old from Winnipeg, was out fishing with a buddy Saturday near Chalet Beach, located on the west shore of Lake Winnipeg. The pair were about 800 to 900 metres off shore but the fish weren’t biting, so they moved a little farther south.

It was around 2 p.m. when they had just about finished setting up again when — bang — the ice under the tent suddenly opened up.

“All of a sudden — pow! Like a shotgun going off underneath your feet,” Link said.

“There was like a two-second pause where we both just looked at each other. The door was open on the tent and our feet started sinking. I stepped out of the tent. He stepped out right behind me.”

The two got out of the tent safely, but when they looked back at the tent it was already filling with water. The crack was roughly three feet wide but ran for miles, “all the way past Gimli to Hecla,” Link said.

Link said the crack stretched for miles, and left the hundreds of other fishers looking around to see what had happened. (Submitted by Todd Link)

“You hear people yelling and walking around, trying to figure out what’s going on, but none of them were that close to the crack and it didn’t happen right under their shack,” he said.

“We’re the only ones who really knew that the crack was right there and everybody was stuck on the far side of it.”

Fortunately, Link and his friend were able to save the rest of their gear. But then they had to find a way off the ice, he said.

“It was a matter of trying to find a spot that looked solid enough to cross a vehicle,” he said. “It’s really hectic because every access way is destroyed. Every way that you got out there to begin with is done, and there’s water everywhere.

“Then it’s a gamble. You got to hope for the best and cross your fingers, really.”

Link and his buddy found a spot on the ice where two slabs were jammed together like a mountain peak, and they crossed there. It was a 50/50 chance, he said, but they made it over.

According to the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba, people should stay off ice completely if it’s no more than three inches thick. At four inches, ice is thick enough for ice fishing, walking and cross country skiing. At five inches thick, ice is safe for a snowmobile or ATV.

Between eight and 12 inches thick, a car or small pick-up truck can drive onto the ice. Between 12 and 15 inches thickness, a medium-sized truck can be on the ice.

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