Ice anglers urged to use caution
Despite warnings from authorities an ice angler digs through the ice off Johnson's Beach, Thursday.
Despite a few days of rain and mild weather, people are ignoring the signs of potentially dangerous ice conditions.
“The ice is at no point secure, so you have to be educated on where you’re walking and where you’re going and have all the safety equipment being worn,” Barrie police Const. Nicole Rodgers said, of conditions on Kempenfelt Bay.
The recent unseasonably mild temperatures didn’t stop Tyler Gurgacz from trekking on to the ice off Johnson’s Beach on Thursday, where he was joined by a half-dozen or so other anglers.
Gurgacz said he has been ice fishing all his life and considers himself an expert in the ways of winter angling.
“The ice is about two inches thick, but I don’t recommend anybody going out there,” he said, after making his way safely to shore with a large lake whitefish in hand. “But today I took the risk and it paid off.”
Samantha Hoffmann, fire and life safety co-ordinator with the Barrie fire department, said people should think long and hard before venturing out onto the bay’s newly formed ice.
“We saw an ice hut out on the weekend. They’re not being very safe because it is definitely something we would not recommend,” she said. “Our message with ice safety is: stay safe, stay alert, stay onshore.
“The one advantage to the rain we’ve had is it has removed the snow so it’s taken away that false sense of security people have about being on the ice,” Hoffmann said, adding there was a call into the fire department over the weekend that saw firefighters getting people off the ice.
“Somebody called it in and said there was something risky happening,” she said. “People had come up from the city and were at Centennial Beach and there was a young family playing in the snow, not realizing it was thin ice. They immediately went back to shore when they were advised of the danger.”
Calls to the Barrie fire department about dangerous ice-related activities are not uncommon this time of year, Hoffmann added.
“We get a lot of cold-water, ice-rescue calls from people who live in the high rise towers along the bay. They see people down there and then they don’t see them anymore and they think they’ve disappeared,” Hoffmann said. “We spend a lot of time and a lot resources checking those things out, which means we’re not available if something else happens.
“If you honestly think someone is in trouble, by all means call us. But what we want to see is people staying on shore so we don’t get those calls and have to make those checks.”
For water and ice safety tips, visit the Barrie fire department’s website at www.barrie.ca.