Fisherman on Lake Erie: "I feel pretty safe this ice" - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Fisherman on Lake Erie: "I feel pretty safe right now on this ice"

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Thanks to the brutal winter, Lake Erie will be almost completely iced over by early next week.

13abc's Christine Long is in Luna Pier along Lake Erie where at least some people are enjoying the bitterly cold weather.

Ice fishermen can't get enough. They're burning vacation days and calling this a nice break from the mild winters we've had.

But it turns out that lots of ice on the lake is good for the overall health of the lake which has been a hot button issue because of those green blobs the last few years: the algae blooms.

Somewhere on Lake Erie between Catawba island and Put-in- Bay sits a village of shanties.

Inside this one, huddled around a heater, fruit farmers are fishing.

"This is the first good old-fashioned winter I'd say we've had in quite a while," says Dave Howell from Catawba Island.

The ice out here more than a mile off shore is eight inches thick. Some areas reach more than a foot.

"There's always concern for thin ice, but we feel pretty comfortable coming out right now," says Dan Bergman from Catawba Island. "It has been a good fishing year for us."

"Course current is always working the ice a little bit," says Howell. "So you've got to be extremely cautious out here at all times."

"It's getting better every day," says Jay Kinchy, an ice fisherman from Castalia. "We gained an inch and a half to two inches of ice last night."

Kinchy came in on his four-wheeler from his spot which is about three miles off shore.

He says the wind is brutal, but he's not complaining.

"Last couple years we haven't been able to get out here so we're burning vacations to get out to do this and fish as much as we can," says Kinchy.

By early next week, ice is expected to cover 97 percent of Lake Erie.

It protects the eggs as fish are spawning.

"A winter like this could help lake levels," says Thomas Bridgeman, an Associate Professor in the Environmental Sciences Department at the University of Toledo.

Heavy, widespread ice, according to environmental experts, prevents evaporation of water and could help levels rebound from their decade drop if winters like these keep up.

But a lot depends on the snow pack on the upper Great Lakes.

"If there's a thick snow pack up there that will melt all through the spring and feed all of the lakes and improve the lake levels here," says Bridgeman.

The happy fishermen are simply ready for another relaxing week on the water in its solid, bitterly cold form.

"I haven't caught anything yet, but we're out here trying," says Howell through laughter. "That's the main thing. Can't catch them sitting at home. That's for sure."

"I just hope it stays cold and keeps making ice so we can fish as long as we can," says Kinchy.

What about the algae blooms? Bridgeman says what happens in the winter won't impact those because they're a summer phenomenon. They're responsive to the weather we get in May and June, not January.

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