RCMP in Gimli, north of Winnipeg, say they got word late Tuesday night about a capsized boat carrying as many as 16 people and that 13 of them were in the water.
Mounties, the Canadian Coast Guard, local emergency services and a Hercules search aircraft from 17 Wing in Winnipeg, were dispatched to the area.
A Coast Guard vessel eventually found the boat with one man on board, not far from the harbour at Winnipeg Beach, south of Gimli.
Police say the distress call was bogus and that alcohol may have played a role in the alleged prank.
A 36-year-old man from the Matlock area, north of Winnipeg, is in custody.
Note to readers: This story corrects an earlier version which stated the Hercules aircraft was from Trenton. RCMP now say it was from Winnipeg