Search for four Great Slave Lake fishermen turns into recovery effort

File photo of Great Slave Lake. (file photo courtesy of RCMP)

RCMP now say that after an extensive aerial and water-based search since Monday, they are now in recovery mode for four commercial fishermen missing on Great Slave Lake since last weekend.

In a news release issued Friday afternoon, Mounties stated that under the circumstances and with the low probability of survival, RCMP are now scaling back the search effort and proceeding with a recovery mission.

Police say fishing debris, believed to be from the vessel, was located in the open water in the area of Windy Bay on the west side of the lake, south of the North Arm.

However, police add that after searching all week, there have been no sightings of the missing fishermen.

They were identified earlier in the week by police as Stacy Linington, 59, from Hay River, believed to be the captain of the boat, Daniel Courtoreille, 51, Michael Courtoreille, 50, and Jason Fulton, 40, all from the Slave Lake area in Alberta.

Their boat was found overturned and partially submerged on the west side of the lake on Tuesday.

The men had left the commercial fishing dock in Hay River early on Sunday, to travel to Sulphur Point, on the south shore of Great Slave Lake, about 60 kilometres east of Hay River, to check fishing nets.

The group was scheduled to be back before night time that same day.

RCMP were notified Monday of the overdue boat and fishermen.

It’s believed windy conditions and rough water may be factors in why the boat was found so far off course.

Searchers found a capsized fishing boat on Great Slave Lake in the area of the pin
(map courtesy of Google Maps)

Police say as part of the search efforts, vessels from the Canadian Coast Guard and the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary have been deployed.

An aerial search over Great Slave Lake was conducted by the Yellowknife-based 440 Air Transport Squadron, the Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ontario’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) and the Civilian Air Search and Rescue Association, Mounties stated.

“While a vast portion of the Great Slave basin has been searched for the missing fishermen, the search operation became focused on an area between the south shoreline and Windy Bay area, after the discovery of the fishermen’s boat,” police stated.

Police say an underwater robot from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been utilized to inspect the submerged vessel.

RCMP say it’s been a difficult week for friends and family of the missing men.

“They were well-known and respected fishermen. We are working hard to try to collect any information and evidence that could bring answers to their loved-ones as to what happened”, states Sgt. Brandon Humbke of the Hay River RCMP detachment.

The RCMP say they have been maintaining regular contact with family members and will continue to keep them informed of the next steps.

Mounties have thanked the community of Hay River for supporting family members by providing shelter, food and comfort.

“As some community and family members may decide to conduct a search for the missing fishermen on their own, RCMP want to remind community volunteers to use extreme caution and plan ahead if venturing out on the land or water as weather conditions can be hazardous and unpredictable, police state.

A well-known commercial fisherman on Great Slave Lake says the crew was renowned as very prolific fishermen buts adds that might have worked against them in the rough water.

Brian Abbott, best known for his role on the reality TV show Ice Lake Rebels, set on Great Slave Lake, says it’s sheer speculation but he thinks it’s possible that their boat may have capsized when a large load of fish shifted in strong winds and rough water.

He says he can’t say for sure but thinks there is a chance the men were not wearing life vests.


About the Author

John McFadden
John has been in the broadcast journalism industry since the 1980s. He has been a reporter in Yellowknife since 2012 and joined CKLB in January of 2018. John covers the crime and court beat as well as reporting on other areas including politics, business, entertainment and sports. He won seven national community newspaper awards while he was a journalist with Northern News Services Limited (NNSL). John worked in Ontario before coming North including stints as a TV sportscaster in Peterborough and senior news writer for CBC and CTV in downtown Toronto.