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WOODS ‘N’ WATER: This winter, be ‘open’ to the options

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: This winter, be ‘open’ to the options


Prompted by some photos in the Meriden R-J last Friday of Wallingford resident Duke Millican fishing at Wharton Brook State Park, I wondered if any other anglers were taking advantage of the open water we are experiencing so far this month.

So I took my Darlin’ Edna and our 10-pound barking terror “Charlie” for a ride to check things out.

Not surprisingly, there were some fishermen at Black Pond fishing for trout from the shoreline, and why not? Black Pond is always stocked with trout in the fall of the year to give those who like icefishing something to fish for.

The problem, of course, is that so far there has been no ice to fish upon. In fact, there were a couple of hardy fishermen in a boat on Black Pond the day I stopped by.

From Black Pond we took a spin by Lake Beseck, and would you believe there was a boat on the water there?

Just for the heck of it, I then took a ride up to Powder Ridge and there were a bunch of skiers enjoying the slopes on man-made snow.

Just what in the heck is going on with the weather so far this year? Sportsmen fishing open water and only about a mile away others are enjoying a day of skiing at Powder Ridge.

Hey, I’m not complaining, but I do know that there are some icefishermen chomping at the bit to get enough ice to fish on.

The only problem is that with the passing of each day without ice and the days now starting to get longer, it is going to take a really big cold spell to make the ice safe enough to go out on.

Every year there are tales of some unfortunate souls losing their lives by going through ice that they presumed was safe.

I think that this will be even truer this year because of the extreme difference in weather we have been experiencing.

Knowing that this scenario can change in the blink of an eye, especially here in Connecticut, I figure that this would be a good time to give those who fish the open water in winter and those who can’t wait to get onto the ice something to think about.

If the water does stay open and you are on a boat, canoe or kayak, make sure you are wearing a PFD (personal floatation device, a.k.a. life preserver). Right now, even without the ice, the water is cold enough to kill you in a short time if you should go in.

As for the ice fishermen, IF we get enough cold weather to make the ice safe enough to go out on, caution should still be the watchword. The bottom line is ICE IS NEVER 100% SAFE!

There are all kinds of charts regarding safe ice thickness, but they are put out with perfect weather in mind. Also, they are talking about clear blue/black ice on lakes and ponds.

A chart that I am looking at says 3 inches of ice is safe for a single person on foot and 4 inches is safe for a group in single file.

Again, don’t forget they are talking about clear ice, not an ice that is formed by snow and cold weather.

More information on the ice chart says 7.5 inches is safe for a passenger car (2-ton gross) and 8 inches safe for a light truck (2.5 tons gross). The list goes on all the way up to 36 inches holding up to 110 tons gross.

Thankfully, here in Connecticut, it is ILLEGAL to drive onto the ice with your vehicle. I say this because, even in the coldest weather, the entire surface of a body of water can’t be 100 percent safe!

Over the years, I have fished Gardner Lake in Salem through the ice and, while we were fishing through 6 inches of ice, there was open water that was playing host to a flock of Canada geese.

And one of my favorite examples of just how fickle ice can be is worth repeating for some of the more daring fishermen in our area.

I fished the north portion of Gardner Lake one winter with friends Ted Kittredge and Norm Van Cor. The ice we were on was pretty thick and we had a ball chasing flags that day.

After a whole week of cold weather, we returned for some more icefishing fun and were treated to a jaw-dropping view. The area we had fished on was now open water!

To this day, I have no idea how it happened, but it has made me VERY aware of how fast things can change in our outdoors.

In another incident, my brother Paul, who resides in Vermont, returned to one of the lakes that he had driven onto for some icefishing and saw a bunch of folks standing on the shore gazing out at a pickup truck that had broken through the ice.

Still don’t believe me? On the day of a perch fishing derby up in New York, the ice was covered with a heavy blanket of snow. A good Samaritan with a brand-new pickup truck and plow decided to clear some of the snow away to make it easier for the fishermen.

His vehicle broke completely through the ice.

For myself, having gone through the ice a couple of times, I began to treat the sport of icefishing with a bit of caution and wisdom. I did not like going out onto a body of frozen water alone and felt more comfortable on the ice when others were out there before me.

A word of caution when going out onto the ice: test the ice as you go by chopping a few holes. The worst-case scenario is new ice with a fresh blanket of snow on it. There is no way you can read the ice.

In the meantime, if Ma Nature wants to give us some open water fishing, take advantage of it. Fishing is supposed to be fun, there is no fish worth dying for. Stay safe!

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters, and first responders wherever they may be serving this great country of ours.