Monday, February 9, 2009

Winter break

It was undoubtedly the sunny Saturday afternoon that drew the ice fishermen out onto the frozen surface of Lake Erie near Oak Harbor, Ohio. There was a stiff offshore wind blowing, but other than that, the day was downright balmy. A perfect afternoon to try their luck. This is probably why so many of them ventured out that day -- 134 in all. We know this because that’s how many the U.S. Coast Guard plucked from the ice floe they were on when it cracked away from the mainland, opening a 100-yard chasm between the fishermen and safety.

You can read more about the harrowing day these poor souls put in on Lake Erie by clicking here.

It happened that I was on the opposite side of the lake last weekend, visiting some friends and family. As such, Ohio’s offshore wind was my onshore, which meant the ice was being pushed toward the beach instead of being pulled away. While we stood in the backyard and watched the Canadian ice fishermen try their luck, this wood carving, which my folks had a local artisan do solely by chainsaw, kept a silent vigil.

I counted fourteen fishermen out on Pigeon Bay at one point. They came on foot, towing sleds full of fishing gear, on snowmobiles, and even on ATVs. With the warm winters we’ve had in recent years, this scene seemed a flashback from my youth, and something I wondered if I’d ever see again on Lake Erie.

Before climbing into the car and heading back to Toronto, we snapped this beauty, looking down the shore toward Leamington. With the day’s bright sun, it was almost possible to envision the thirty-five-degree days that often scorch this part of the country in the summer, leaving the lake about the only place to find relief.

But today, we opted to not set foot on Lake Erie. It was probably for the best.

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