RCMP find boat used by missing fishermen on Great Slave Lake

The men were expected to return to Hay River Sunday evening. When they didn't arrive, they were reported missing early Monday morning.

The men were expected to return to Hay River Sunday evening, were reported missing early Monday morning

In this undated photo, the F.P.V. Reliance is on patrol on Great Slave Lake. An air and marine search is underway for four missing fishermen on the lake. (RCMP)

RCMP say rescuers have found the boat used by four missing fishermen. The partially submerged vessel was found near Windy Bay on Great Slave Lake at 9 a.m.

Police say they did not find the fishermen, who were expected to return Sunday. The search for the four men continues. 

A woman who identified herself as a family member of one of the missing men wrote in a public Facebook post that the recovered vessel was found with only the bow above water. 

Police say the fishermen set out to check their fish nets on Sunday. They left from the commercial dock in Hay River early that day and headed to Sulphur Point on the south shores of the lake.

They were reported missing to RCMP Monday at 4:10 a.m.

Poor weather conditions prevented search vessels from going out on the water Monday, said RCMP spokesperson Julie Plourde.

This morning, aircraft from the 440 Squadron and the Civilian Air Search and Rescue searched the lake. 

The Canadian Coast Guard deployed vessels from Hay River and Yellowknife to grid search the area between Hay River and Sulphur Point.

The search efforts focused on the northern shores of Great Slave Lake from Yellowknife to Gros Cap and from Hardisty Island to the Mackenzie River. 

A map showing the location of Windy Bay, north of Hay River on Great Slave Lake. (Google)

Great Slave is a 'violent' lake: experienced fisherman says

Bert Buckley Sr. is a fisherman who has spent 50 years on Great Slave Lake. He describes it as "violent."

"Great Slave Lake is a lake you don't take chances on," he said.

Buckley described the vessel the missing fishermen went out in as an aluminum boat roughly 10 metres long with two, 250-horsepower motors. It's an open vessel boat, meaning it does not have a deck. 

He said the lake has experienced strong southeasterly winds for the last two days. Yesterday's offshore winds were enough to keep his son off the lake.

Many years ago, Buckley said he himself was caught in a gale-force wind storm. The best bet in those conditions, he said, is to head to deeper waters, where the waves are less intense. In the shallows, swells begin to pile up and can easily overtake a vessel. 

Buckley has lost a nephew on lake, and that experience has added to his caution when going out in inclement weather. 

Family praying for safe return

In a Facebook message, a relative said the family is not ready to make a statement. In Facebook posts, friends and family shared their prayers for a safe return. 

RCMP have not confirmed the identities of the individuals on the craft.