Rick Ward making his way in from the lake at Catawaba Island State Park Saturday, Feb. 8
Not only has our area been busier this winter with outage workers from Davis-Besse, but the harsh winter has drawn ice fisherman to our area for the first time in years. Looking out onto the horizon of the lake amidst a sea of white, a speckling of ice shanties can be seen. According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, as of Feb. 10 Lake Erie had 93% ice cover. The NOAA Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System reports that the Great Lakes as a whole are 78% covered.
Most of us don’t like shoveling or the slippery road conditions, but if there is something that a lot of area residents can agree on it’s their love of fishing. This past Saturday at Crane Creek State Park off of State Route 2 in Oak Harbor the parking lot was full of trucks and trailers; over 150 vehicles were parked while their owners were out on the lake fishing. Half of the license plates were from Ohio and half from Michigan. There were also plates from Indiana and Pennsylvania. Catawba Island State Park held a similar site: a full parking lot with a trail from the land to the lake, with the horizon spotted with little dots.
The full parking lot of Crane Creek State Park Saturday, Feb. 8
“No ice is safe ice,” said Rick Ward, a charter captain from Drawbridge Marina, “but this is the safest ice I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
Ward went on foot three miles out from Catawba Island State Park Saturday and said the ice was about 16 inches thick.
Area bait stores that are open are reporting an influx of business. At Herb’s Sportsman’s Supply on NE Catawba Rd., worker Mark Evans said, “there was no winter the last few winters. Our business is definitely up. It’s not as great as summer, but it’s still pretty good.”
Derek Drown and AJ Wozniak with their camp's catch Saturday, Feb. 8
Another place that is receiving more traffic is the Erie-Ottawa International Airport. Kelly Griffing from Griffing Flying Services reported an increase in trips over previous years.
“It’s hard to say because of the back and forth of the weather,” said Griffing, “but I would say that we do about 12 trips a day, seven days a week. Sometimes a trip is three ice fisherman and other times it’s a flight with eight island residents. It’s all weather dependent.”
Police Chief Bill Robel, Lakeshore Dr., Port Clinton, 1961
The ice coverage is also bringing back childhood memories for some lifelong area residents. In 1961 a Nor’easter swept through the area and pushed the ice up and onto the land. This photo was submitted of Police Chief Bill Robel in 1961 on Lakeshore Drive. The ice crested on land taller than Chief Robel. This winter will also be one to add to the record books.