Angler drowns in lake
By SCOTT SWANSON, Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE — A Skanee man drowned on Roland Lake in Baraga County Wednesday while ice fishing.The body of 68-year-old Richard Blacyki was discovered in the Arvon Township lake by divers around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to a press release from the Baraga County Sheriff’s Department.
According to his friends, Blacyki left to go fishing between 9 and 10 a.m. Wednesday. The friends called the sheriff’s department when he did not return by sundown.Deputies from the sheriff’s department, as well as officials from the Arvon Township Fire Department, arrived on the scene around 8 p.m. and found a hole in the ice about 150 yards offshore.
The fire department checked the area with a small raft and found a portable shanty submerged below the ice.Blacyki’s body was discovered by divers Lundy Casto and Jerry Lutz. The Michigan State Police, Arvon Township Fire Department and Bay Ambulance also assisted at the scene.Blacyki’s death was the first ice-fishing fatality in the Upper Peninsula this year, said Lt. John Cischke of the Newberry office of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
While ice on some lakes had reached 3 to 4 inches thick a few weeks ago, that is no longer the case, he said.“What’s happened now with the recent thaw, there’s not a single body of water that has ice on it that’s safe,” Cischke said. “There’s nothing safe at this point. We don’t recommend anybody going on any ice at this point in time.”Rivers are even more dangerous, he said.“If you went on a river with ice this morning, it could be gone by the afternoon,” Cischke said.
About 3 to 4 inches of ice is typically safe for walking on, while at least 6 inches is recommended for snowmobile traffic, he said.Cischke recommended that anglers bring a spud or pole to check the thickness of ice, ice picks to help pull themselves out if they fall into the water and a flotation device.
Ice fishing safety
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources offers the following safety tips for anglers who are fishing on ice-covered bodies of water:
Ice covered by snow always should be presumed unsafe. Snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows the freezing process. Ice under the snow will be thinner and weaker. A snowfall also can melt existing ice. If there is slush on the ice, stay off. Slush ice is only about half as strong as clear ice and indicates the ice is no longer freezing from the bottom.
Be especially cautious in areas where air temperatures have fluctuated in recent days. When temperatures vary widely, causing the ice to thaw during the day and refreeze at night, the result is a weak, “spongy” or honeycombed ice that is unsafe. Bear in mind that ice weakens with age. When it turns dark and gets honeycombed, it’s time to quit for the season.
Do not venture out onto the ice unless you test the thickness and quality with a spud or needle bar or an auger. Ice that is six or seven inches thick in one spot can be only two inches thick close by. Conditions can change within just a few feet because of currents under the ice.
Be especially careful around pressure cracks. When the currents are stronger, the ice gives way to open water. When fishing the big lakes, always take a compass and take note of which way you are going as you leave shore. A cell phone or citizens band radio can keep you in touch with other anglers.
Always keep an eye on the winds that may cause the ice to shift and pay attention to weather reports. Never venture out on big water if blowing snow is in the forecast. Ice near shore tends to be much weaker because of shifting, expansion and heat from sunlight reflecting off the bottom. If there’s ice on the lake but water around the shoreline — proceed with caution.
Fish with a partner whenever possible and always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
Source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources Web site at www.michigan.gov/dnr
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