Glyndon angler stranded on icy lake near Perham
PERHAM -- A Glyndon man's passion for walleye fishing got the better of him Saturday when he found himself stranded 60 icy yards from a lake shore in 6-degree weather.
The aftermath involved a strenuous propane-tank-wielding stint, some two dozen Perham-area rescuers and a hefty dose of embarrassment. For Michael Huber, the 27-year-old diehard angler at the center of the action, the ordeal underscored the importance of reining in your passion on occasion.
"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."
On Saturday afternoon, Huber drove to the lake, where he had reliably pulled out 5- to 6-pound walleyes on previous frigid nights. He said he releases all fish he catches.
His father, also an avid fisherman, had tried in vain to wrest information about this charmed spot.
But when Huber arrived about 4:30 that evening, 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, who hasn't missed a day of fishing this open water season.
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.
A man who spotted Huber from shore called for help. Otter Tail County Sheriff's deputies and firefighters from Perham, Vergas and Otter Tail Fire and Rescue responded at about 7:30 pm.
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."
Stewart says his team dreads this time of year because almost annually they're called upon to help impatient ice fishermen who've fallen through too-thin ice. But rescuing an angler unfazed by too-thick ice is rather unusual.
A fireman in an ice rescue suit reached Huber using a walker-like contraption that makes advancing across the ice easier. The fireman brought a rope, which his colleagues on shore used to pull the boat in.
"I'm fine," Huber told 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.