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Anglers should exercise caution when ice fishing

A day out on the ice jigging for walleyes, crappies, perch or bluegills is tranquil, exhilarating, fun and, most importantly, dangerous.

Ice fishers are itching to get out on Mosquito, Pymatuning, Berlin, Shenango and ponds to take advantage of the early frozen-water season. First ice is often productive, but it also is dangerously unpredictable.

Too many anglers learn that the hard way every winter.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources aims to minimize the number of people killed or injured this winter on dangerous ice with the flat-out declaration that no ice is safe.

The ODNR boss herself issued a warning last week. “No matter how thick it may appear, stepping out on frozen water can lead to tragedy,” Director Mary Mertz said. “People need to remember there is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice.”

Many anglers have tempered their enthusiasm for ice fishing with a healthy respect for the hazards it harbors. They know that even during the deepest of freezes, they risk falling through the ice and therefore exercise caution and plan ahead to minimize their chances for serious injury or worse.

The ODNR issued a list of factors people should understand about ice: (1) thawing and refreezing can weaken ice; (2) pockets of air can form under the ice on lakes where the water levels are raised and lowered by flood control; (3) the insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process; and (4) ice formed over flowing water and currents is often dangerous.

“It is always a good idea to plan your outdoor pursuits and share your plan with a trusted friend or family member, especially if you are alone or planning to be on or near frozen water,” the ODNR said in a news release.

ODNR also issued guidance about attempting rescues: “If you see someone fall through the ice, it is important not to go on the ice after them. Ice that breaks once will break again. The best solution is to call for help.”

Authorities advise that after calling for help, a rescuer might toss a rope or a floating object to a person who has fallen through the ice. Also, you can direct the victim to hold their hands close to their face and breathe into their hands.

People walking out on ice are advised to wear a flotation vest or a flotation snowmobile suit (but never where them inside an enclosed vehicle). Carry two screwdrivers, ice picks or large nails to provide a firm grip in the event you need to pull yourself from the water onto the ice. Avoid alcoholic beverages.

Extend Xmas trees’ usefulness

If your Christmas tree is still out behind your garage, consider hauling it to a Mahoning Green Team recycling center where it will be put to further use as wildlife habitat.

Cut trees are tethered to cinder blocks and “planted” in select shallow-water locations around area lakes to provide shelter for bait and game fish species.

Mahoning County Green Team will collect Christmas trees until Jan. 31, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Jack Wollitz’s book, “The Common Angler,” explores the thrills and chills that make fishing fun. He likes emails from readers. Send a note to jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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