Survival Survival Skills

Watch: Nebraska Man Rescues an Ice Fisherman (and His Fish Finder) Using a Tent Bag, a Kayak, and Two Hammers

Travis McIntosh had snagged some leftover minnows from the ice fisherman minutes before he fell through the ice
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An ice fisherman rescues a fellow angler using a tent bag.

Travis McIntosh (left) used the bag for his ice-fishing tent to pull the angler out of the water and onto the ice. <p>Photograph courtesy Travis McIntosh</p>

The kindness of strangers came full circle in Nebraska last month when a good Samaritan rescued a fellow fisherman who crashed through the ice. The unknown angler had just shared some minnows with his neighbor, Travis McIntosh, when the man broke through the ice. McIntosh hauled the angler from the frigid water using the tent bag for his ice-fishing shelter. After saving the angler’s life, McIntosh also helped recover the expensive fish finder he dropped when he fell in. Snippets from the rescue were captured on video by McIntosh’s friends, who were with him that day.

The incident took place near Plattsmouth on Buccaneer Bay, a small sandpit lake off the Platte River. McIntosh, 32, explains that he’s lived on the shore of the private lake since he was 11. He’s ice fished every winter since then but says it’s been an especially poor hardwater year in Nebraska.

“We already have open water right now on most of the lakes,” McIntosh tells Outdoor Life. “Especially the lake we were on. It opened up within two weeks of that accident happening.”

He says the conditions were already a bit sketchy the morning of Jan. 28, when he went out on the lake with his girlfriend and two other friends. After setting up their tent on ice that was 5 to 6 inches thick, they caught a few decent bass. By mid-morning, however, McIntosh noticed water pooling on the surface where the sun was hitting the ice. So, the group moved their tent to a thicker spot and started catching crappies.

“We’d had a pretty good day by around noon, so I decided to order a pizza,” he says. “There were two younger gentlemen who’d been fishing on the opposite side of the lake for about an hour, and I was ready to leave and go get the pizza when they yelled at us, ‘We’re leaving! Do you guys want some minnows?’”

After thanking the two men, who turned out to be brothers, McIntosh and his friends used the minnows to catch a few more crappies. Minutes later, he looked across the lake to see the younger brother walking across a thinner section of ice near the boat ramp. McIntosh went back to jigging live minnows, and when he looked up again, the angler had fallen through the ice. All he could see was two hands waving just above the icy surface.

“His older brother started running towards him, and my buddy Jake started running towards him. But I ran towards the bag for my ice-fishing tent instead,” McIntosh says. “I was like, Well, I don’t have a rope with me, but if someone were to fall in I can always grab that bag. I’d said that to myself [earlier] that morning. I remembered that thought and grabbed the tent bag before I went out on the middle of the ice.”

A group of ice fishermen rescue an angler who fell through the ice.
After he was pulled out of the water by McIntosh and his brother, the angler stood up and fell through the ice a second time.

Photograph courtesy Travis McIntosh

By the time McIntosh got there, the angler had already dropped the Panoptix fish finder he was carrying when he fell through. He also had a camping chair in a bag that was wrapped around his neck.

With the older brother holding McIntosh’s hand, they formed a two-man chain while McIntosh threw the roughly 7-foot-long tent bag toward the hole in the ice. The angler grabbed ahold of the bag, and they slowly pulled until he could crawl across the lake’s surface. McIntosh yelled at him to keep crawling, but the man didn’t listen (or didn’t hear him) and stood up instead.

Read Next: The Best Fish Finders of 2024

“He literally fell through where I was kneeling to pull him out the first time,” McIntosh says. “So I gave the bag to his brother, and now we’re kind of reversed. I helped pull, and by the time we finally get [the guy] out of the water [again], he’s shivering.”

McIntosh learned that the two brothers (whose names he never caught) had gotten permission to fish the private lake from a landowner there. After calling the landowner, McIntosh went back for his ATV and drove the shivering angler to the landowner’s house, where he took a warm shower. Then McIntosh ran home to pay the pizza delivery person who’d been waiting at his door.

An ice fisherman scoots across the lake in a kayak.
The older brother scoots across the lake in a kayak and recovers the fish finder.

Photograph courtesy Travis McIntosh

“I went back out on the ice and dropped off the pizza, and we got a couple pieces in us because we were starving. But then I went to help the older brother, because me and him had seen the Panoptix still floating in the middle of the lake,” McIntosh says. “That’s like $2,600 for that little fish finder.”

Not wanting to risk another fall, McIntosh came up with a clever way to recover the fish finder. He borrowed a neighbor’s kayak and grabbed two straight-claw hammers from his garage. The older brother then hopped into the boat to distribute his weight across the ice, clawed his way across the lake using the hammers as ice picks, and retrieved the fish finder from the open hole in the water. Meanwhile, McIntosh says the younger brother who’d fallen in the lake made a full recovery. He wasn’t showing signs of hypothermia or frostbite, and the two brothers drove home to Lincoln that afternoon.

Read Next: The Best Ice Fishing Shelters of 2024

“I talked to him later that day and he said [the fish finder] turned on. It still worked.”