Fishermen rescued from ice on bay of Green Bay

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GREEN BAY -- It was a close call for eight ice fishermen after they found themselves adrift on Green Bay Monday morning, January 7th until Brown County and Coast Guard rescuers could get to them.

It happened off shore from Brown County's Bay Shore Park just before 10:00 a.m.

Several ice floes broke free, leaving the men with no safe way back to shore. Ice rescue boats eventually delivered the men to shore.

Ron Hazaert was one of them.

"We were only out like 100 yards, before we knew, it separated, and the wind pushed the chunk out. There was no way of getting off," Hazaert said. 

The men were heading away from shore after two chunks of ice broke free. 

"There was seven on that big chunk. We just kind of all got together. There was eight inches of ice where we were fishing, but the wind just pushed it out," Hazaert said. 

"When the warm weather comes up, and the wind comes up and there's an awful lot of open water in the bay, where the wind was blowing, that's where the ice shelf is going to go," Lt. Steve Perry with the Brown Co. Sheriff's Office said. 

A few miles to the north, ice boats from the U.S. Coast Guard and Brown County Sheriff's Office launched at Red River County Park. 

Early reports indicated as many as 16 people trapped. Two men were able to jump the crack on the small ice berg and walk safely to shore. 

Eight others got an air-powered escort. 

"The Coast Guard rescued two people, and took those two people to Brown County Bay Shore Park. Our ice boat rescued four in one trip and two in an other," Lt. Perry said. 

No one was hurt in the rescue.

The fishermen were a little shaken, but happy to be off the ice.

"I think anybody who goes ice fishing, knows there's gambling time, any chance you go out ice fishing," Hazaert said. 

Officials say with the temperatures warming up, it is not recommended to venture out onto the ice. Those that do should take a cell phone, warm clothes and another person in case there is trouble.

I like to ice fish, and I'm out there quite a bit, but this time of year, you got to be really careful," Jim Frazir of Dyckesville said.

The DNR agrees.

Officials say it just takes some wind, warmer weather, and cracks in the ice to create these ice islands.

"You can pretty much assume the ice is going to get worse," Jeremy Cords, DNR Recreation and Safety Warden said.

With warmer weather headed our way, it's a trend that will continue.

"Ice is always unpredictable. Ice is like glass, and when there's stress on it, the little fractures start to form and then it'll crack and freeze and will re-crack and might crack in a different spot," Cords said.

Even when conditions improve, Cords says do research before heading out.

"That's the great thing about Wisconsin, ice fishing, everyone is friendly and you can start up a conversation pretty easily. How's the fishing going? Let's take a look. Let's take a look at the ice thickness and just look down the ice hole there," Cords said.

But no ice is considered safe. Because of that Cords says always have a game plan, and be prepared for the worst.