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Aitkin sheriff urges anglers to exercise caution on Mille Lacs

About 20 Mille Lacs Lake anglers and their rescuers all made it off the lake without injury Wednesday night and on Thursday a relieved Aitkin County Sheriff Scott A. Turner urged anglers on to be cautious in future outings.

While pleased no one was hurt, he noted the expense of the rescue operations which took place Wednesday and this weekend on Mille Lacs. He also expressed concern about placing rescuers in potential risk, particularly during night rescues such as Wednesday night’s successful effort.

“We prefer that people not put themselves at risk,” he said “They (anglers) need to be mindful of the conditions.”

The conditions on Mille Lacs as the holidays approach, Turner said, is that while many bays are frozen the center of the lake continues to be open, leading to the possibility of ice chunks breaking off and stranding anglers.

Wednesday’s rescue efforts, which incorporated Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office and Brainerd Fire Department Hovercrafts, privately operated boats and a State Patrol helicopter, began after a 6:10 p.m. Wednesday report that a sheet of ice broke free from the shore on the north-northwest side of the lake. It concluded shortly before 10 p.m. after multiple boat and Hovercraft trips to rescue the anglers and a State Patrol helicopter sweep to ensure no one was left behind.

The ice sheet, about a quarter mile from shore, had separated from and drifted towards the center of the lake — creating an open water gap of about 150 yards, the Aitkin County Sherriff’s Office reported. In all there were over 20 people that had to be rescued. The people were rescued with the aid of Hovercrafts from the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office and the Brainerd Fire Department and with watercraft supplied and operated by private persons living on the lake.

Also assisting the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office were the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officers, the Garrison Fire Department and the Cuyuna Regional Medical Center ambulance. No one was injured in then incident.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at 855-5860 or

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860