Moraine State Park officials urge safety when ice fishing
Lake Arthur at Moraine State Park in Butler County — a popular spot for swimming, boating and fishing during the warmer months — offers recreational opportunities in the cold weather,too.
Kenneth Andres, 73, of Butler was ice fishing alone in March when he fell through the ice and died.
“If we know there is weak ice, we will put signs up,” said Jake Weiland, the park's assistant manager. But because the park has only eight rangers to cover nearly 17,000 acres and they don't all work at the same time, “we have to rely on people using good judgment,” he said.
Lake Arthur does not freeze over every year, Weiland said. Ice fishing is permitted Jan. 15 to March 15 but ice should be at least 4 inches thick for people to walk on it for fishing, he said. Driving onto the ice with any type of motorized vehicle is not allowed at Moraine.
On the same day Andres died fishing a section of the lake near Prospect, a number of people were ice fishing. Park officials said most left as the weather warmed.
“Ice fishing is a great winter activity. But folks need to recognize that there is a risk with it and need to be careful,” Weiland said. “We do not have winters like Minnesota or Michigan” where ice on lakes freezes solid for long periods.
Weiland said assessing the stability of ice is complicated and requires good intuition as ice rarely freezes uniformly.
“There are so many conditions that can affect whether ice is safe,” Weiland said. Among them are underwater springs that cause ponding on the surface. It also is difficult to assess the stability of ice when it is covered with snow, he said.
Other factors that can weaken ice are weeds sticking above the surface and aerators that conservation agencies use to put oxygen into lakes during winter fish kills, said Christian Ward, technical director of the USA Ice Team, a Wisconsin-based organization that sponsors ice-fishing tournaments.
“If ice looks at all questionable, don't fish it. When there are accidents, it is almost always someone who lacks experience. ... Use your eyes and common sense,” Ward said.
Many experienced ice fishermen go to the same place each year because they know where the body of water freezes first and stays frozen, Ward said.
Safety equipment for ice fishing, including ice rescue claws and ice picks, is relatively cheap, he added.
Ward, who lives in Minneapolis, described ice fishing as a recreational activity and a sport.
“It does not cost a lot of money. It is a way to get outside. It is a niche sport and does not have a big media engine behind it,” he said.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.