Some Solid Advice: Stay Off Thawing Ice Warmer Weather Means Ice On Lakes Will Be Cracking, Breaking Up
Ron Goltz showed his Calgary roots as he skated easily past his opponents, nudging a hockey puck.
Spin, slap … bonk. The puck hit the gym bag. Easy goal.
“This typically doesn’t freeze,” said Goltz, 45, of Hayden Lake. He was one of a half-dozen players in a pick-up hockey game off Independence Point on Lake Coeur d’Alene.
If weather forecasters are correct, however, the hockey season’s going to be short.
The National Weather Service is predicting highs today near the freezing mark, followed Tuesday and Wednesday by highs of 35 to 45 degrees. Plus rain.
“If there’s any sort of ambient temperature change - especially if it goes above freezing - you’re going to see that ice move and break up,” said Bonner County Sheriff’s Sgt. Bob Lindstrom.
A Bonner County dive team on Saturday recovered the bodies of two men who fell into Lake Pend Oreille while driving a Ford Thunderbird over the ice at East Hope.
At Fernan Lake on Sunday, ice fisherman John Carrico pulled an old sled down the boat launch and onto the ice. A snowmobile pulled up nearby.
“You’re not taking that thing out, are you?” Carrico asked the snowmobile owner.
“I’m foolish, but not that foolish,” the man chuckled. “I don’t think so.”
Lindstrom said he’d seen numerous snowmobile and four-wheel motorcycle tracks on area lakes and ponds. That’s not a smart idea, he warned. The recent cold snap hasn’t been long enough to produce consistently thick ice.
“Going out there any distance on the ice is really taking your life in your hands, especially when you consider the weight of a vehicle,” he said.
Off Independence Point, 26-year-old Denver Hamm pedaled his mountain bike by the hockey players.
“This is my first time doing this,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
He said he’s careful to listen for ice cracking underneath him.
“Then I just keep riding faster, before anything happens.”
At the Fins and Feathers tackle shop in Coeur d’Alene, clerk Jeff Smith said he spent most of Friday drilling test fishing holes in nearby lakes. Hauser and Cocolalla Lakes were 4 to 7 inches thick, as was the ice at the west end of Fernan Lake, he said.
But the ice was an unsafe 2 to 3 inches thick on Fernan’s east end, he said. Some Lake Coeur d’Alene bays are frozen, he said, but the ice is new and varies in thickness.
“I carry a boat cushion and a rope in my fishing sled,” he said. He also carries spikes in his pockets, in order to pull himself out on the ice if he falls through.
Smith said ice should be at least 4 inches thick to be considered safe; Lindstrom recommended 9 inches.
In general, the clearer the ice, the better. Much of the ice now is what Smith calls “slush ice” - slush that’s frozen solid. It’s not as strong as clear ice.
“And rain knocks the heck out of her, really hurts the ice,” he said.
If someone falls through, rescuers should lie flat to spread their weight, then throw a rope, nylon strap or other aid to the person. Once pulled onto the ice, the rescued person should quickly get to a warm shelter.
Carrico, 69, said he often carries an inner tube in his sled.
Lindstrom said some fishermen bring flotation vests with them.
“It may sound paranoid, but, hey, it’s a pretty good idea,” he said.