Parks officials urge safety precautions
By GARY HARMON, The Daily Sentinel, http://www.gjsentinel.com/news/content/news/stories/2007/12/24/122507_1b_Vega_ice_fishing.html
Monday, December 24, 2007
Vega State Park Manager Bob Miller received the Christmas Eve call he didn’t want early Monday morning, when a passerby alerted authorities that two snowmobiles had crashed through the ice.
Vega had only opened to ice fishing Saturday, Miller said, so he was on the alert for an early-season mishap on areas of still-thin ice.
When he set out for the disaster scene, though, Miller found only a pair of ice fishermen, decidedly dry, angling placidly. No snowmobiles were underwater, and no rescue of a shivering snowmobiler was necessary, to Miller’s relief.
After some sleuthing, Miller learned that someone from Louisiana was driving around the lake and spotted the ice anglers, who had hauled a sled with equipment to their site. Apparently unfamiliar with the practice of ice fishing, the Cajun stopped and called out to the anglers, who waved back reassuringly, Miller said.
The Louisiana man drove off, but apparently couldn’t shake off the fear that something had gone awry, so he contacted authorities.
There was no malicious false report, Miller said he concluded, just one filed by someone who was a bit “overeager.”
Nonetheless, Miller said, even those familiar with the business of ice fishing should be careful on the ice, some of which is only 3 to 5 inches thick. Other areas are a more stable 6 to 8 inches thick, Miller said, “(but) you always have to be concerned about varying ice conditions.”
Anglers should take several precautions, Miller said. Among them:
• Wear a life jacket;
• Stretch a tether line to a rock, tree or vehicle on shore to pull yourself to safety;
• Carry ice picks to pull yourself onto ice;
• Stay away from inlets, where ice tends to be thinnest; and,
• Stay apart so your group’s weight isn’t concentrated on any single area.
Anglers should dig test holes to determine the thickness of the ice as they venture out, he said.
Especially this early in the season, snowmobilers should stay off the ice until mid-January at the earliest, he said.
More information about ice is available on the Colorado State Parks web site, www.parks.co.state.us. Click on the links to specific parks..