Do not throw caution to the icy wind

How does that old saying go? If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute and it will change.

That seems to be the case so far.

I know that many of my outdoor fishermen were really getting ready for some ice-fishing with the cold snap that we just had, and then for some reason the weatherman gave us some unseasonably warm weather that even obliterated the snow cover we had on the ground.

As I pen this column the day before Christmas, it looks like we will have some more cold weather heading our way, but there will also be some warm spells in between those cold days. This is not only having an effect on the ice-fishing, but also the local ski areas as well.

The last couple of winters have been rather “iffy” at best with ice on many lakes and ponds being extremely dangerous for anyone wanting to get in some ice-fishing. Please, keep in mind that there is no fish worth dying for.

I can tell you this: You don’t have to worry about me being the first one on the ice. But there are those foolhardy sports that just have to be the first one on the ice. I remember talking to one fisherman on Tyler Lake up in the Goshen area who told me he was “always” the first one on Tyler, even if he had to put down boards on the ice to keep from going through. I simply shook my head in disbelief and walked away.

Another time towards the end of the ice-fishing season, I was up in the Goshen area and stopped by Dog Pond. I could not believe my eyes as a couple of sports were walking around on the rapidly melting ice wearing PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices a.k.a. life jackets).

It made me wonder about their sanity. Sure, it’s great to be what you consider “safe,” but why even go on the ice if you think you are going to go through?

Have you ever gone through the ice? I have, and it is an experience you will never forget. I was only about 10-years old when I went through the ice while skating on Morin’s Grove in South Meriden back in the 40s. Luckily, one of the older kids, Eddie Revay, was there and saved my life by pulling me out of the frigid water. That was a very scary experience, one that I would not wish on anyone and also one that has made me very aware of traveling on safe ice.

Blue ice (usually clear) is always safer than slush ice, which is about 50 percent weaker than blue ice. There is a scale of sorts for ice users that was made with blue ice being the one the table was made for. The table states that one inch is unsafe for humans, two inches one person on foot, 3 inches a group in single file, four inches a snowmobile or ATV, 7 inches a passenger car (2 tons) and 8 inches a light truck (2.5 tons).

Scale be damned. I “start” to feel safe on the ice with a minimum of four inches of ice, and here in Connecticut you are not allowed to drive a car or truck out on the ice. As for the two inches being safe for one person on foot, forgettaboutit! If the ice is only safe enough for one person where will the help come from if you fall through?

And speaking of falling through, think about this for a minuet or two. If you go through the ice it will generally be one of two ways. The ice will simply give way under you and you will be submerged in the freezing water and, if you are lucky (if you can call going through the ice “lucky”) you will pop up in the hole you went through and someone will help you out. In the second scenario (and this one is a nightmare) is that the ice will break like trap door, sending you into the freezing water and then the ice will resurface in the same hole that it broke from, trapping you under the ice with only a minute left in you life.

Sorry to sound so gruesome, but accidental deaths due to being careless are gruesome. This also brings to mind the thought that it is really safer to ice-fish with a buddy for safety sake.

Thankfully, here in Connecticut, they do not allow cars and trucks on the ice! Just because ice is deemed safe for one sport or another, especially ice-fishing, that does not mean that all of the ice is safe for everything. If the body of water you are on has a current of any type going through it, this could result in unsafe ice.

Many years ago, I witnessed such a thing on Gardner Lake in Salem, Connecticut. A group of us had fished the northern end of the lake one weekend and had some exceptional fishing the entire day. The rest of the week had remained very cold and we looked forward to the coming weekend for another ice-fishing trip on Gardner.

Imagine our surprise when we arrived and saw that the area we were fishing on was now a small body of open water. No one has ever been able to explain what had transpired other than it might have been from the activities of some underground springs.

Regarding vehicles on the ice, New York State does allow vehicles on some lakes and ponds, and on one of them the local Lions Club held a yearly ice-fishing derby in February. The 10 inches of ice was deemed acceptable for the derby, but the lake was covered with about a foot of snow.

A well-meaning sport who had just purchased a brand new pickup truck with a snowplow volunteered to go out on the ice and plow paths for fishermen to use on the day of the derby. Everything was going smoothly until, without warning, the truck broke through the supposedly safe ice and went to the bottom of the lake. Thankfully, the driver was pulled to safety, but the same cannot be said for his brand new truck!

Get the picture yet?

Oh yeah, I know that some of our readers will be reading this article thinking Roberts doesn’t know what he is talking about because they never had a problem on the ice. To them, I say good luck on all of your ice-fishing trips. I don’t tell you these things to keep you off the ice. I tell you about them to help keep you safe.

Looking out across a frozen surface of water, it is very easy to assume that the entire body of water is safe, but this is not always the case, and this is especially true if there is a covering of snow on the ice! The snow can act as an insulator, preventing the ice from becoming safer. Plus, it makes it harder to “read” the ice.

If you are the first one on a certain body of water, test the thickness of the ice by chopping or drilling holes as you make your way out on the ice. If the ice on the shoreline is cracked and squishy, stay off! And as I say this, I remember some of us laying old planks across these areas to get onto the ice. What were we thinking?

Expect ice around protruding objects like rocks, bridge abutments and stumps, as well as pressure ridges, to be less safe. This also includes dark areas in snow-covered ice.

Let me say it again, “There is no fish worth dying for!”

NEW YEAR MEANS RENEWED LICENSES

Besides needing a fishing license for some ice-fishing this year, sportsmen are also reminded that they will need a 2014 hunting license if they want to spend time hunting.

Bowhunters are reminded that there is still hunting allowed in areas 11 ans12 along the shoreline during the month of January. These are high deer density areas, and deer tags used on does are replaceable.

Hunting season for some upland game, including rabbits, squirrels and pheasant, is open until the end of February.

Hunting and fishing licenses can be purchased at town clerk offices, as well as tackle shops like the Fishin’ Factory over in Southington (860) 621-8145.

You can also go online to purchase them. Visit www.ct.gov/deep/sportsmenlicensing. It works. I tried it!

Make sure you have your lifetime conservation number handy when you renew. It is at the top of your license.

WALLINGFORD WISHING WELL DINNER

The Wallingford Wishing Well’s 24th Annual Game Dinner will be held Feb. 1 at the Villa Capri Banquet Facility, 906 North Colony Road, Wallingford.

The WWW donates all proceeds to helping children in the Wallingford community. Tickets are $35 per person. For tickets and information, contact Plaza Service at (203) 269-3550 or Chick’s Auto at (203) 269-5836.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.



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