Lives of Lake Erie Ice Fisherman Could be in Danger Due to Commercial Ice Breaking Operation on Monday

The U.S. Coast Guard warns that it is permitting a commercial ice-breaking operation in Western Lake Erie around the Bass Islands on Monday, a move that has many sportsmen and fishing guides up in arms. They say that safety should come before money, and claim that the operation puts the lives of ice fisherman, who already begun flocking to the area to fish, in danger.

The icebreaker will impact some of the most popular mainland ice fishing areas of Lake Erie, which includes Catawba Island and off of Mouse Island at the north end of Catawba Island. The plan reportedly involves breaking ice along the east side of South Bass Island to allow passage to Catawba Island.

Fortunately, the operation is unlikely to impact the 10 to 12-inch thick ice on the west side of South Bass Island where a number of ice fishermen have set up and the Coast Guard will be broadcasting a warning about the ice breaking every three hours on marine radio channel 16. This, however, may not be enough and lives could still be in danger because guides say that few ice fisherman actually carry a marine radio and there are already ice fisherman on quad runners and snowmobiles traveling from the mainland to South Bass Island and people coming from Pelee Island in Canadian waters to Put-in-Bay and the Ohio mainland.

The U.S. Coast Guard says that the tug Ohio is leaving Cleveland to head to Put-in-Bay on the north side of South Bass Island on a course that will take it between Kelleys Island and Middle Island. The Ohio will head to the Miller Ferry Dock on Catawba Island around 10am on Monday, and will be followed by the tug Bessie J., which will be towing a barge. They will be traveling along the east side of South Bass Island on their way to Catawba's Miller Ferry docks where it will be loaded with steel dock ribs. Around 1pm, the boats will take the same route back to Put-in-Bay, but any delays in loading could push back the return trip until Tuesday.

Critics say that the load should have been shipped in November, when there wasn't any ice to break.