Ice safety urged for anglers and winter enthusiasts

As ice begins to form on area lakes and waterways, many anglers and outdoor enthusiasts are venturing out to have a good time or catch the big one.

One popular winter spot is Mitchell’s Bay on Lake St. Clair in Chatham-Kent. But the lure of Mother Nature’s splendour can catch you off the hook if you’re not careful.

“You have to watch it out there,” warned Cole Bailey, an ice fishing expert and co-owner of Angling Sports Bait and Tackle in London. “You get varying ice conditions because there’s a lot of current coming through that lake with all the rivers that feed it. The wind, if it blows the wrong direction, it’ll break up the ice.”

Bailey said being prepared means having the basics in equipment that could save your life if you find yourself in trouble.

Starting with a set of ice picks or ice claws, as their called. “They’re usually hanging around your neck by a draw string,” explained Bailey. “You grab hold of them and you stab them into the ice. What that will allow you to do is you pull yourself up out of the water and you can roll away to safety.”

Cleats are also essential said Bailey. “So without a proper pair of boots with cleats on them, you’ll be slipping and sliding all over the place.”

A spud bar is also a must-have, he said. “It’s a big, heavy two-piece chisel that you ram into the ice and you’re able to check for thickness.”Finally he said never to go out without wearing a floatation suit. “That’s another very important piece of equipment that will go a long way in making sure you’re safe out on the ice.”

OPP also warn those who love the outdoors in winter to consider the risks associated with their recreational activities.

“Whether or not it’s the rivers in our area, the creeks, the water ends up fluctuating underneath,” said OPP Insp. Shawn Johnson. “So it can be thick in one area and all of a sudden because it’s free flowing, you get into a thin area. So you could be participating in some outdoor activities and next thing you know, you find yourself in danger.”

Area municipalities are also warning outdoor enthusiasts that it’s not safe to skate or play hockey on storm water management ponds.