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splakeshaker

OAK HARBOR, Ohio - A miles-wide ice floe broke away Saturday from Lake Erie's shoreline, trapping 135 ice fishermen, one of whom fell into the water and later died. A local sheriff called the fishermen's actions — given warming temperatures and the fragile ice — "idiotic."

Many of the fishermen were plucked from the ice by rescuers who glided along in air boats.

On Saturday morning, fishermen had used wooden pallets to bridge a crack in the ice so they could go out farther on the lake. But temperatures rose into the 40s, and the planks fell into the water when the ice shifted, stranding the fishermen about 1,000 yards offshore.

The person who died fell into the water while searching with others for a link to the shoreline, Ottawa County Sheriff Bob Bratton said. Others tried CPR before the person was flown to a hospital and pronounced dead, he said.

A second fisherman went into the frigid water when he tried to drive his ATV over a small crack in the ice, Lanier said. A rescue boat pulled him out within a few minutes, and he was brought to shore and wrapped in blankets. The man was not treated at a hospital and went home.

"We get people out here who don't know how to read the ice," Bratton said. "What happened here today was just idiotic. I don't know how else to put it."

Norb Pilaczynski, of Swanton, Ohio, disagreed. "We were in no danger," he said. "We knew there was enough ice out there."

Several Coast Guard ships and helicopters were sent to rescue the people from the ice floe. The Coast Guard initially said up to 500 appeared trapped, but later revised that to 134 people rescued and one death.

Mike Sanger of Milwaukee said the crack had been tighter earlier in the morning. "I was told the lake was froze all the way across," said Sanger, 51. "I didn't think the lake could go anywhere."

Ice on western sections of Lake Erie was up to 2 feet thick Saturday, National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Randel said. The ice cracked as temperatures rose and winds of up to 35 mph pushed on the ice.

When fishermen realized late Saturday morning that the ice had broken away, they began to debate the best way off, Sanger said, adding that no one appeared to be too scared. Some chose to sit and wait for authorities, while others headed east in search of an ice bridge.

Some managed to get to land on their own by riding their all-terrain vehicles about five miles to where ice hadn't broken away.

Sanger said he was rescued after about an hour by one of several private charter air boats that pulled up and offered rides.

'Heck of a city out there'

Ice fisherman who regularly visit the lake have said this winter's thick ice has lured more people to the lake. The numbers of ice fishermen has been unprecedented, said Oak Harbor resident Peter Harrison, who has lived on the shore for 40 years.

"There was a heck of a city out there for the last week and a half, two weeks," the 71-year-old said.

Bratton said he discussed possible rescue plans with his colleagues on Friday after meteorologists forecast higher temperatures for the weekend.

Even in cold temperatures, the ice in western Lake Erie is often unsafe because of currents that can easily cause the ice to shift.

Ohio Division of Wildlife spokeswoman Jamey Graham said the state annually warns fishermen that there's no such thing as "safe ice." And authorities along the lake are trained for these type of rescues.

"You have to know the weather. You have to know how to read the ice," Bratton said. "It doesn't take much for this to break."

ATVs still on ice

Bob Bochi said their group of friends remained calm during the ordeal because the ice around them was about 14 to 18 inches thick.

Sanger said his biggest disappointment is that his vehicle is still floating in the middle of the lake, meaning he can't fish on Sunday as planned. Other all-terrain vehicles also were still stranded on the ice.

"We'll go swimming for it this spring," said Bochi, 54.

Such strandings happen every winter, but rarely are so many ice fishermen caught on one floe.

The rescue operation cost thousands of dollars and pulled emergency responders away from other duties, Bratton said. None of the fishermen would likely be forced to cover the cost of rescue operations, said Chief Petty Officer Robert Lanier, a Coast Guard spokesman.

“To the best of my knowledge, they didn’t break any laws,” he said. “Ice fishing is a culture here on the Great Lakes.”

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  • Your Responses - Share & Have Fun :)

    • arctic_scrap1
      I picked up a used 2013 Forest River True North 20x8 ice house. I got a decent deal on it but the front jack is having problems. When I try to raise up the tongue I get some loud clicking sounds from the jack and it's not raising. I'm prepared to just buy a whole new jack for it since I assume the internals are stripped but has anyone else a similar problem? This jack is rated for 3500lbs and the tongue weight is well under 1000lbs so I'm pretty disappointed with it. For right now I'm just using my car jack. Maybe I'll need it for the rear jacks.....
    • leech~~
      Winni or Leech.
    • Bryan P
      Been a slow start to my season but finally found few decent crappies.They were in 23ft off structure. Tungsten jig tipped with white plastic did the trick to bring them topside. Can't beat plastics, caught tons of fish on just one. You know its on and doesn't fall off. Got some cool footage of the flasher in this video too.     
    • pikeandchester
      Got a pickup, wheel house, ATV and portable. Been to (not all this year) Lake of the Woods, Upper Red, and Mill Lacs. Any recommendations for something new? Otherwise may try to get to know the lakes near Garrison.
    • pikeandchester
      5 sauger Saturday, 4 sauger and 3 pout Sunday out of Adrian’s. Started in deeper water, east of the crowd on Saturday. Sunday I moved around a bit, even drove the atv west of the crowd, 34 fow, with no luck. Spent the afternoon and evening in 25 fow near pine Island which was the only place I caught fish Sunday. Resort houses where mostly in 34 fow. Back home now.
    • Sunset Lodge
      Hello from the NW Angle! Fishing remains consistently strong on the Minnesota side this week. Many species are quick to bite leaving anglers with a very mixed bag at the end of the day. We saw multiple 40+ inch Northern, many Perch, even a Lake Trout among an already strong Walleye bite. 22-24 ft on gravel bottom surrounded by mud has been our best spots. Be sure to charge up any Glow tackle in use, with the increasing snow cover, glow or lighted lures have been hot. Pink/white and gold are also very effective on sunny days. The Canadian bite just keeps getting better! Crappies can be found in 30 foot holes while 22-26 ft flats on break lines have been hot for a Sauger/Walleye mix. Remember to stick to well-traveled trails as most have not been staked/marked as of yet. Until next week!
      Sunset Lodge
    • Parmer
      Not sure about the resort... But I know Adrians road is like 11 miles out past pine Island and they were plowing farther. Guy from my work was 9 miles out last weekend and did good on 14 inch sauger with some walleye mixed in.  He said there is 24 inches of ice.   I would say to try and get away from the groups.  Good luck fishing. 
    • Parmer
      Am heading up this weekend... Not sure where we going out of... But like to be away from the groups also. I usually go out of hunters but they are having road issues again. I am sure it will be resolved by Friday. 
    • Matt Johnson
      Some good news and some bad news over the last week...  good news is that we made more ice!!  Bad news is that the fish keep moving (STAY PUT FISHY'S!!! LOL)!!    I'm finding 12-16" of ice on most lakes, but still practice caution.  I've been driving out on many area lakes with my Suburban but you still need to pay attention to the ice conditions and don't take any risks.  Some of the shoreline ice is a little weird and areas around islands, channels, neck-downs, etc, will continue to have bad ice... something you can expect all winter in some spots.  So, always use caution and don't go venturing "off the beaten path" if you don't know the lake or know where you're going.     Ok, onto the the fishing stuff!  A lot of fish still holding in the shallows, but they are constantly moving.  The additional pressure that the lakes are seeing has the fish more active--and not necessarily active as-in feeding, but more-so just roaming and moving around more.  The vehicle traffic will push fish around, same with the increase amount of holes being cut and just the increase in general fishing pressure.  So, preaching mobility is no longer an option... you have to PRACTICE mobility as well.  You know, the whole "practice what you preach" phenomenon.  Get those augers going and chase down the fish.  The shallow bite can require a lot of holes to find the consistent pattern, but once you figure them out you can hone-in on a more specific area and hammer-home.  Yesterday morning from 8am-11am I went through 4 batteries on my Milwaukee ripping holes, just be thankful the ice isn't 2-feet thick yet so it's a good time to get after 'em!   One thing I've noticed lately is that the fish are really relating to the bends on the shoreline structure.  Seems to hold them a bit longer than traditional flats and break lines.  The bends that have weeds are even better--assuming those weeds are alive and flourishing.  Not much snow on the ice so it makes for easy travel, too... but don't forget the cleats, or you'll know why real-quick!  Punch out those bends both on the edge and up on the shallow portion if there are weeds present.  The pattern has held true on a handful of lakes... Chisago area, Minnetonka, Forest Lake, Clearwater and many others.  Might be onto something... let me know if others find the same thing...   And for presentations, I've been absolutely crushing them on the Pinhead Mino with NO BAIT at all.  The 1/16oz has been deadly on crappies and gills.  An easy bait to fish when staying mobile and no messing with bait or even plastics.  I've had to slow down and finesse some fish with tungsten and plastics too, so don't get me wrong, but it's amazing what that Pinhead will catch! See pics below...   Otherwise I just keep glued to my Lowrance and Navionics chip, or else the Navionics App for my phone and continue to scout out new spots.  Never get complacent and keep searching out new spots.  I'm seeing the spots dry-up faster and faster after you find a "honey hole," so keep looking for that next one!   Some cool temps heading our way... might actually feel like winter in MN for a while! Lol.  I'll be back on the ice Friday-Sunday and I'll check a few more lakes and report back.  Good luck out there and be safe!
    • LUCIFER
      Basswood motor permits are hard to come by. Be ready and get it the first day that permits are offered. JIM P.