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Walleye angler stranded by ice on Little Pine

An obsessed walleye fisherman found himself stranded off shore on Little Pine Lake Dec. 5, when his motor wouldn't start and the lake was icing up.

Stranded on Little Pine Lake north of Perham was 27-year-old Michael Huber of Glyndon, who had to chop the ice to get out into the lake-but the water froze over again a few hours later.

Rescue workers from throughout the area were called to the Paul Miller Park public landing and beach, after receiving the report that he was stranded.

The aftermath involved a strenuous propane-tank-wielding stint, some two dozen Perham-area rescuers and a hefty dose of embarrassment.

"It was a stupid move on my part," Huber said about his foray into Little Pine Lake, about two miles north of Perham. "Safety should probably come before fish."

"I guess it just goes to show that, if you're a serious walleye fisherman, there is no condition too extreme," said Perham Police Chief Brian Nelson. "Personally, I would prefer to wait until the lake freezes over and I can do it from the comfort of a fish house."

The boat was at least 60 yards from shore, and Huber attempted to break the ice and work his way back, according to Bill Boedigheimer, who lives about a half-mile away on Little Pine Lake.

The walleyes had been biting for Huber for several nights in a row, said Bill Boedigheimer. He said Huber was a "friend of a friend," and that the two were talking by cell phone about Huber's predicament. When he couldn't make his way back to shore, Boedigheimer called for rescue.

"He just wasn't making progress when he tried to break through the ice," said Boedigheimer. "When I talked to him on the phone, he said he was fine-but tired."

The fisherman was not injured or in extreme danger, but he was simply unable to get to shore, according to the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Department.

Huber had been reliably pulling out 5- to 6-pound walleyes on previous frigid nights.

But when Huber arrived late Saturday afternoon, he found the lake had iced over close to the shore.

"I knew I probably shouldn't go in, but I just had to get one more line wet," said Huber.

He tore through the ice in his motorboat and reached his spot, about 120 yards away from shore. But when he readied to head back after a few hours of fishing, he found his motor wouldn't start. And when he rowed closer to shore, he discovered ice blocked his way. He started crushing the ice with a propane tank used for a heater he had on board - until exhaustion set in.

When he arrived, Sgt. Jim Stewart of the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office checked the temperature gauge on his vehicle: 6 degrees.

"This guy was obviously very passionate about fishing," he said. "He was out there in 6-degree weather with 60 yards of ice catching fish that he was throwing back in the water."

"It really turned into an ice rescue and we needed to have the firefighters in full water rescue suits due to the cold water and the amount of ice that was on the lake," said Perham Fire Chief Mark Schmidt. "We needed help from Vergas Fire and the Ottertail Fire Department for extra rope and to have a back-up plan in case things went wrong."

Crews used the Vergas Fire Department's "Rescue Alive Unit" device that enabled a Perham firefighter to walk out to the frozen boat. A rope was tied to the boat, which allowed about 16 firefighters then to pull it in, said Schmidt.

The device is described as a walker-like pontoon contraption that makes advancing across the ice easier.

"I'm fine," Huber told Sgt. Stewart after the 40-minute rescue. "I am just really embarrassed."

Huber, a home remodeler who aspires to become a professional walleye angler, says he feels awful for putting rescuers to work. And, with media reports of his ordeal, his secret location will be no more.

"Talk about giving away your hot spot," he said.

It was very good teamwork by all the entire fire and sheriff departments, said Perham Fire Chief Schmidt. "The guys did a really good job with keeping themselves safe," he said.

Perham Fire Department had 12 firefighters at the scene, Vergas had four, and Ottertail fire department had four. Perham EMS was also on scene and assisted the victim with patient care.