Cold good for winter sports

Jerry Simcik of the village of Florida, places a tip-up in a hole in the ice to catch a walleye during the 7th annual Walleye Challenge on the Great Sacandaga Lake on Jan 31, 2015. (The Leader-Herald file photo)

CAROGA — Recent cold is reportedly building ice rapidly on Fulton County lakes, but fishermen, snowmobilers, skiers and others using the lakes should still use caution.

“This looks like a good old-fashioned upstate New York winter,” said Clarence Chamberlain, owner of Sportsman’s Choice in Caroga.

Chamberlain said anglers, who are daily visiting his shop on routes 10 and 29A, are reporting ice thickness of 5 to 8 inches on both Caroga lakes, 5 to 8 on Green Lake, and 4 to 6 on Canada and West lakes. “These are guys who fish these lakes as many days as they can,” he said.

If cold conditions continue, ice depth may reach more than a foot, he added.

Likewise, anglers who have been fishing in the bays of the Great Sacandaga Lake are now moving to the center of the lake and reporting 4 to 5 inches of ice there, said Jim Johnson, owner of Jim’s Bait Shop on Second Avenue Extension in Mayfield. Six inches of ice have been reported on the smaller Mayfield Lake, he said.

“This weekend you probably will start seeing some ice shanties go up” on the Sacandaga, he said.

Ice reports always come with caveats. One of these is that ice depths aren’t consistent on any given lake. Anyone using a lake is advised to avoid ice on running water at areas of inflow and outflow since ice is considered thinner there. As a reservoir, Sacandaga water levels are variable, and its edges are more prone to slushy ice, cracks and ridges and jutting rocks–a danger especially to snowmobilers.

The state Department of Environmental Conservations has issued some general ice thickness advisories, based on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:

∫ A minimum of 3 to 4 inches of solid ice is the general safety rule for being on the ice at all.

∫ Four inches is considered safe for ice fishing and other activities on foot, 5 inches for snowmobiles and ATVs, 8 to 12 inches for cars and small pickups, and 12 to 15 for medium trucks, but inches should be doubled for white ice.

∫ Guidelines are based on clear ice on non-running waters. Slush ice is 50 percent weaker than solid ice, and clear ice over running water is 20 percent weaker.

∫ Some people prefer at least 5 inches for fishing and 15 inches for pickup trucks.

“Bubblers” used to protect docks may weaken ice some distance away.

Steven Santa Maria, Fulton County civic defense and fire safety coordinator, said information on lakes is best obtained from fire departments, bait shops and local EnCon officials, especially for people unfamiliar with a lake.

He said users of lakes should try not to venture out alone–or at least let someone where they will be and when. They should wear life jackets and bright clothing and bring an ice bar or spud to test ice and an ice pick to claw out in case they fall through the ice.

If people fall through the ice, they should not remove heavy clothes, which may contain trapped air and help them to float, and they should kick their legs to help them to become horizontal, he said. Once back on the ice, they should roll toward the area they came from and go somewhere they can get dry clothing and warm, non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages.

Uncontrolled shivering and disorientation are two of the signs of hypothermia, an abnormal and dangerous drop in body temperature, he said.