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Angler fatality prompts memories

Jim Hudson goes eye-to-eye with a nice Blueberry Lake bluegill from last year. The 34-year-old professional fisherman from Bayfield, WI passed away when he went through the ice on Lake Superior last week. Hudson loved the Park Rapids area's vast resources for big panfish. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

An unfortunate accident on Lake Superior one week ago contributed to a popular guide and angling professionals death.

Jim Hudson, age 34, of Bayfield WI, went through the ice of Lake Superior on his snowmobile last Saturday, Jan. 26.

Hudson, who knew the waters of Lake Superior better than anyone, spent 30-40 minutes in the water before a rescue and subsequent life-flight to Duluth. The angler succumbed and died at the age of 34.

Many people in the fishing industry knew the positive minded, dynamic fisherman who never put himself at risk. Hudson was the poster child for safety conscious angling.

Jim served as a police officer in Bayfield until 2011, when he decided to pursue a full time occupation in fishing.

Hudson wasn't a risk taker; didn't drink, smoke, speed; he took the training of the police force with him onto the water every day.

Yet Jim Hudson, the most careful of the careful, went through the ice on his snowmobile and could not escape the grasp of Lake Superior. After spending 30-40 minutes in the icy water, Jim Hudson didn't survive. One of the rescuers from Bayfield almost called Jim, knowing that he was probably guiding on the ice when the emergency call arrived, not knowing that it was the highly trained rescuer himself that needed assistance.

Jim's wife is Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, the web-favorite photographer who shot the viral internet photos of John and Schoep, the owner dog combination who became an overnight sensation.

Jim would talk fishing with anyone who had the same interest. He loved the Park Rapids area because of its opportunities for trophy crappies and bluegills.

This humbling incident brings forth the fact that no ice is ever 100 percent safe. Even at its thickest levels, variables like current and wind play a large role.

Many people don't think about the impact of wind on ice conditions and fish behavior in the winter because you don't see waves.

Yet on large bodies of water the pressure produced by wind can definitely influence ice conditions, creating heaves and ridges.

Most of the lakes in the Park Rapids area don't develop pressure ridges, though some of the larger lakes do.

Current, however, is present on a number of regional bodies of water. Traveling between bottle-neck areas or channels is off-limits. This isn't a law, but an unwritten rule of the safety conscious angler.

Wearing a personal floatation device or "float-suit," those specially designed to keep the angler afloat, are essential, even when you think the ice is safe for travel.

And finally, a pair of ice picks that can be used to help an angler crawl out from an icy plunge are a good idea to have along all season long.

I've made my own mistakes on the ice and have gotten wet a few times over the years. In each instance it was my own fault. The popular phrase commonly uttered in the classic series Hill Street Blues keeps it simple; "Let's be careful out there."