NEW FRANKLIN, Ohio — All along Lake Erie's shoreline, ice is forming.
It can be very beautiful and look solid enough to walk on, but looks can be deceiving.
In February of 2021, the sounds of Coast Guard choppers echoed along Cleveland's lakefront when a walk on frozen Lake Erie turned into a rescue. The ice broke away near Edgewater Park and carried a family towards open water. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
On this Wednesday, the Coast Guard issued a warning to stay off Great Lakes ice. It's just not ready yet.
"Lake Erie is a different animal", Cameron McCune, a fisheries management technician with the Ohio Division of Wildlife and avid ice fisherman himself, said.
While Mother Erie isn't ready to walk on, some inland lakes are.
"Four inches of good, clear ice is what you want to have", McCune explained. "A lot of guys will see 4 inches and there's a couple inches of clear and a couple inches of cloudy ice. It may support you, but you're taking a risk."
McCune says those who want to recreate on the ice need to do their homework on safety gear and how much weight the ice can bear. That information can be found on the Division of Wildlife website.
As with anything, experience is the best teacher. Angler Scorr Scarito puts his years of experience to good use, with the first ice meaning safety first.
"I'm 32 now and have been ice fishing since I was ten years old", Scarito told us. "Especially when you're questioning the ice sometimes, [safety is] a necessity. I've got the spud bar over there. I even bring a life jacket sometimes."
He also has ice picks to pull himself out, just in case.
Some other tips?
- Fish with others so you can keep an eye on each other
- Have a throw bag with 30 feet of rope inside
- Wear a personal flotation device or float suit
- Don't forget traction for your boots; the ice is extremely slick when there's no snow on it, and it can break bones if you fall
- Don't fish alone, and always tell someone where you're going
McCune and anyone who enjoys time on ice anywhere knows the one thing to remember about ice is there's no such thing as safe ice; only degrees of good and bad. Always remember that, whether you're on 4 inches of ice or 40.