LAKEVIEW, N.Y. (WIVB) — Joe Schmelzinger loves to fish. The Lakeview resident has caught small fish, big fish in all kinds of water — Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, you name it.
On Aug. 26, Joe and his family were on vacation in the Thousand Islands, where they travel often. It’s the scene of perhaps his biggest fish story — and doesn’t involve a fish.
The family — kids included — was enjoying one of the final weekends of the summer a few weeks ago, cruising Lake Ontario.
“We were driving along, and all of the sudden, my husband saw something in the water, and it was a deer just swimming in the middle of Lake Ontario,” said Annette Schmelzinger. “Our first reaction was, we gotta help this deer.”
Added 6-year-old Alivia Schmelzinger: “That thing didn’t even have floaties!”
Something on shore likely spooked the young buck, who, by the time the boat floated up, was frantically trying to stay afloat.
“He was definitely way out there. We were probably in 70 feet of water,” Joe said. “It was headed out into the lake. It was headed the wrong way.”
Annette grabbed her phone, and captured the incredibly unique water rescue.
“Once he got up on the boat, he pretty much hopped right down on the floor and laid there,” Joe said. “We covered him up with a towel. It didn’t even try to run away or anything.”
The family comforted the deer until they reached the shore.
“People were yelling, ‘Did you catch anything?’ from fishing, you know,” Annette said, laughing. “And my husband holds it up and say, ‘Just the baby deer!'”
The whole rescue took about 20 minutes.
“The first wooded area straight off the island, we set him down and let him go back into the woods,” Joe said.
Although he took a bit of an awkward route (the deer kicked its legs up as he was being lowered from the truck bed) it eventually hopped off into the woods, leaving the Schmelzingers with a great story to show and tell.
“To even see a deer in the lake, you would never think that, you know?” said Guy Peterson, who set the deer free. “A lot of my buddies are saying to me, ‘Are you going to go hunting in the woods and find a fish?'”