February 12, 2009

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

I have to confess that when my fire department pager sounded Saturday morning, my first thoughts were about ice fishing. No Iím not that addicted to the sport that I neglect my duties as a volunteer, nor would I use the emergency summons to skip out of a meeting or some other form of work.

But with temperatures in the 60ís again on Saturday, and knowing that just the day before I witnessed unsafe ice on a few of the ponds I visited, I have to confess I was concerned that some unlucky fisherman had fallen through the ice and was needing rescue.

It turns out my emergency call had nothing to do with ice (we were requested to aid in preparing a helicopter landing zone at a motor-vehicle accident scene north of Memphis.)

As it turns out, the ice was safe enough to hold anglers through the weekend, either that or it was obviously bad enough in some areas that we diehards knew better than to trust it.

Apparently that wasnít the case in Ohio. According to the United States Coast Guard, 134 ice fishermen were successfully rescued from an ice flow that broke away from the shore of Lake Erie near Oak Harbor, Ohio. News reports revealed that the fishermen used plywood to cross an existing crack or opening in the ice. Warm weather combined with strong winds, ultimately caused that gap to grow, sinking the would-be bridges. Winds pushed the ice flow into open water, forcing rescuers to come to the aid of the fishermen. One man died during the emergency, reportedly suffering a heart attack, and two anglers had to be fished out of the water by rescuers.

I was tied up with some community service projects (not court mandated mind you) all day Saturday, so I wasnít able to do any fishing. I wasnít too excited about the conditions anyway, after sloshing around atop the shrinking ice on a couple ponds Friday evening. My Labrador retriever identified one unsafe spot as she was partially submerged in an opening near the waterís edge. Of course it was just a refreshing dip for her, and she even went back a few more times as the day progressed to cool off after chasing rabbits.

While it was nice and warm, I had no desire to take the polar plunge with her.

I did talk to a few folks that ventured out on the ice on Saturday. One trio told me tales of fishing all day. The catch was good, but after finding it tricky to locate an easy spot to enter the ice, it was truly treacherous making an exit after another full day of warm temps and wind. They said they had to hunt and search the pondís edges to find a spot where they could get off the ice without getting totally wet in the process.

While I wasnít too upset that I was unable to fish on Saturday, it did prove beneficial for me in the sense that my fellow fishermen felt sorry enough for me Friday evening that they let me keep all of the fish. Fried fish, caught through the ice, are hard to beat as far as my menu preferences are concerned. Looks like this latest batch will have to last me until next winter.

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