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Officials urge caution on Upper Red Lake in northwest Minn. after two bodies found

A Kelliher, Minn., Fire and Rescue team leaves shore Monday to search for two missing people who were fishing Upper Red Lake. The bodies of Melissa Marie Seidenstricker and Zeth Grey Knyphausen were found later that afternoon. Jordan Shearer | Forum News Service

UPPER RED LAKE, Minn.—Law enforcement and a northwest Minnesota resort are urging people who ice fish to use caution when venturing out following the death of two anglers Monday on Upper Red Lake in that corner of the state.

Searchers recovered the bodies of Melissa Marie Seidenstricker, 30, of Princeton, Minn., and Zeth Grey Knyphausen, 29, of Stacey, Minn., at about 3 p.m. Monday. The pair had rented a sleeper fish house from Rogers' on RED resort and had failed to return from their fishing trip Sunday night. A friend alerted police to their disappearance.

"What happened with the kids (Seidenstricker and Knyphausen), we're never going to know," said Rogers' on RED owner Chris Freudenberg. "Did the kids get into trouble in the daytime? Was it night time? What was the timeline on it? Everything was kind of back and forth."

In a Tuesday-morning Facebook post the resort provided maps of the lake marked with coordinates deemed unsafe. The post urged anglers to take extra time familiarizing themselves with the area before venturing out onto the ice.

Though Seidenstricker and Knyphausen were experienced anglers on the ice who had visited Rogers' on RED before, they still traveled out onto an area of the ice marked on the map by a skull and crossbones, Freudenberg said. He did not know how the pair ended up at a location about a mile from shore, but said they could have gotten confused.

"These kids came up and fished here several times," Freudenberg said. "They love the thrill of early ice fishing and they were very accustomed to it, but even still, even with all that knowledge, they still ended up in trouble."

Melissa Seidenstricker's brother, Jake Seidenstricker, traveled to the resort after the anglers were reported missing. Seidenstricker said in an interview he was the person who found the hole in the ice where the two fell through.

The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office would not make a statement regarding Seidenstricker's account. In a Facebook message, Jake Seidenstricker said that he and other investigators went to look at the fish house where Melissa and Zeth had been sleeping. As he was sitting outside the fish house waiting for investigators to take photos, Seidenstricker used his binoculars to look at the lake and saw two black dots "way off in the distance," he said.

He drove out toward the dots and saw a hole in the ice. After looking closer, Seidenstricker said he saw his sister's boot and glove, as well as other boots and gloves, floating near the edge of the ice.

"I called the lead search and rescue guy and they hurried out on hovercraft with the ice guys in cold water suits to start the search," Seidenstricker wrote.

In an updated news release sent Tuesday afternoon, the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office said searchers used side-scan sonar to locate the anglers' all-terrain vehicle after the hole in the ice was found. Seidenstricker and Knyphausen's bodies were found shortly after 3 p.m. and taken to the Sanford Medical Center Morgue for an autopsy by the Beltrami County Coroner.

Seidenstricker said his sister was an experienced angler, who had been involved in the activity since they were children. He remembers an ice fishing trip when Melissa was 7 years old, when she took on a large walleye.

"She got its head up the hole and just out of the hole when it snapped the line, so I grabbed it and slid it under the fish house, when it flopped and flipped trying to get back down the hole," Seidenstricker said. Another child went to get Seidenstricker's father, while the two kids "fended the walleye off with a small red minnow... to keep it from going down the hole until our dad got there."

Seidenstricker said his sister loved to ice fish with friends, and said she was one of the strongest women he knew.

The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office advised anglers to check with local resorts on current ice conditions, check in with others often and to make sure they are well-prepared with proper gear and clothing. Freudenberg said Rogers' on RED plans to remain open.

"When we talked about it with the sheriff yesterday they thought it was a better idea that we remained open, because fishermen are going to venture out regardless," he said. "If you go in front of another resort, get a map from them. Go in and pay the fee."

Grace Pastoor

Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or gpastoor@bemidjipioneer.com

(218) 333-9796
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