Another one of my ice fishing experiences was on Lake George, New York. Lake George is 32 miles long, and it is known for its water quality, and extreme natural beauty. Lake George has some shallow bays in the southern end of it which are formed by two peninsulas which jut out into the lake’s main body.
Lake George’s main body has depths up to 200 feet deep, but the bays are generally only about 25 feet deep or shallower. Shallow water plus the protection from the main thrust of the wind by the peninsula land masses mean that the bays will freeze days, or even weeks before the main body of the lake.
Iced over bays bring out ice fisherman looking for perch, crappies, and the great northern pike. One bright sunny January day I was one ice fisherman out on the frozen bay with the rest of them.
I marched out on the ice with my equipment and went out beyond all the other guys, and got to within 200 feet of the still open lake. Open water stretched out before me for miles. I wanted it to freeze, so I could fish the main lake for its lake trout and salmon which are usually found only in deeper water.
The spot I selected was about 30 feet deep which is good for pike, perch, and crappies, and sometimes even salmon, or lake trout; however, you fish for them differently. I set my tip-ups in a line about 50 feet apart'”each one closer to the edge of the ice and open water. Each hole I made showed at least 6 inches of good clear solid ice. The ice was thick enough to hold a 2 ton truck. This was the first time I had ever ventured so close to open water. I was nearly a mile from shore and I was alone with nature. It was a beautiful day, and I was enjoying myself immensely.
My last line was set only 10 feet from the open water. I still had 6 to 8 inches of solid ice to stand on, so I felt safe. I could not begin to realize why the lake is frozen so well here and only 10 feet away it is open for miles. I almost wished I had brought a lawn chair and a fishing pole.
The day passed all too quickly for me. I caught dozens of perch, 3 pike, but no lake trout or salmon. As the day waned I noticed that it was starting to get dark; everyone else had already left the ice. I was completely alone.
I began to take in my lines beginning with the one closest to shore and working toward my last line closest to the open water. That was the one that I had set for salmon and lake trout; I wanted that one to be the last one I took up before going home.
Finally I got to my last line. My other tip-ups were all taken in and stowed in my pack basket. Daylight was fading fast, and soon it would be dark. Still, I wanted a nice lake trout; I decided to sit on my 5 gallon pail and wait for 10 more minutes before pulling up the line.
I sat and watched the 4 inch long bait-fish from where I sat. For salmon you only have to put the bait 4 or 5 inches below the ice. Suddenly I noticed the line off at an angle. I couldn’t see the fish beyond my line of sight below the ice. I thought maybe the bait was swimming, but when I pulled it up to look at it, it was nearly lifeless after being on the line for hours. When I put the fish back down into through the hole into the water I noticed the line going out from under me again.
I had the strange feeling that something was very wrong. I looked back toward the bay and I saw a large crack opening up. The ice platform I was on had broken off. I was on a slab of ice headed for the main lake body! The ice flow was about 50 feet wide and 300 feet long. The crack was about 10 feet wide nearest me, but maybe only 2 or 3 feet wide farther down. I got off the pail and ran as fast as I could toward the narrowest part of the crack. When I got there I easily leaped over the crack onto the solid ice again. I jumped back over the crack to retrieve my basket and sled, and tossed them over the crack and jumped back to safety. Nearly trembling from excitement I watched the ice flow float at least 100 feet away from the edge of where I was standing. My 5 gallon bucket and tip-up floated away with it, but I was safe.
That was a harrowing experience. I had narrowly escaped a life threatening situation. If I hadn’t noticed the break in the ice as soon as I did I would have floated away on the ice flow, and without anyone there to call for help I might have drifted away unnoticed and alone overnight. Once the waves got a chance to chew away on the ice it would most likely would have broken into small pieces and sent me to a watery grave'”if I didn’t freeze to death first.