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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 :)

    • Spearing Machine
      7-10 days the lake will be ice free. Which will be almost right on average ice out (April 30). Pike bay is open up to Duffy island working up the bay. Paddled from the Pike river up the bay to the ice line tonight. 
    • delcecchi
      Fake chirp as marketing gimmick.    They need something to convince folks to buy their unit and dump their unit from two years ago.    I am reserving judgement on the new higher frequency units.  "mega" and equiv.   Side scan actually seems like it could be useful.  Lots of stuff is changing these days in electronics.       I think what would be cool is an underwater drone with several transducers that communicates back to the boat wirelessly with sonar and video.....    Fresh water doesn't block radio waves too much so probably could use radio communication at least for a limited distance.       Some sort of modulated acoustic waves would work too.       Can't you just see, sitting in the boat, driving the mini-sub around looking  for fish, with sonar to help?   I bet the open water musky guys would pay big bucks for one....😂
    • Kettle
      https://www.valleynewslive.com/content/news/Big-fish-likely-NDs-largest-walleye-ever-caught-508887291.html   16lbs 9 ounces, 32.5 inches, absolute hawg of an eye
    • Cooperman
      Unbelievable! For a fish?
    • eyeguy 54
      no prob that you want to die fishing. but no sense in hurrying it up. lol 
    • smurfy
      Wowzer, again.🙄
    • walros
      Heading up to Wheelers Thursday for sturgeon.
    • side_laker
      Heading up to the river in the morning trying to decide if I should fish up the river or out if wheelers. 
    • Jim Almquist
      Sure wish we would get a strong enough east wind to pile the ice on shore. Lot of ice out there and it will take a long time if it has to all melt. 
    • BIGFISH.JZ
      Friends and family would worry about me if I was too afraid of getting a little wet to go fishing. Every time each one of us drives to the lake or on a lake, we are in danger of a teen girl or drunk killing us. Or a brake failure or shift and throttle or steering cable causing our rig to lose control. I bust through each spring coming off the ice. Which is why I know that it's not fatal. In Nov. I ask the bait shop owner if anybody has been out, if he says "No, its not safe" I smile and buy bait. I've been fishing when waves were crashing onto the ice MANY times. When the 1.25" ice cracks between my feet from a cough... I just DONT cough! If I have my choice I'm going to die while fishing!! That's why I fish more than I sleep or work in a year. You 'safe' people are going to die, maybe in a accident maybe from cancer, 'safe' doesn't matter!! This is who I am!! I spend more money and more time fishing than ANYTHING else!! Don't worry about me, folks!! I have survived tons of close calls.... The time we were on superior ice fishing 6 miles from shore... After dark and nearly got hit by the 1001' American Spirit ship comes to mind. We abandoned most of our gear to run once we realized what was happening. One last time... I WANT TO DIE FISHING!!  Hope that helps you guys understand. Good luck living forever.