An ice-breaking operation near the Lake Erie islands came to a halt Monday because of the very activity the Coast Guard has issued warnings about: ice-fishing.
The irony was perhaps not lost on Coast Guard crews or the company hired for the project.
“By about 1 p.m. Sunday, there were still too many shanties in our path,” said Mark Nowakowski, of HPH Mechanical, the company hired for the operation. “We can’t force them out of our way.”
Crews were slated to break the ice from South Bass to Catawba islands.
Representatives at HPH Mechanical, also in charge of the Put-in-Bay docks project, were hoping Great Lakes Towing Company would transport a barge with project materials from Catawba to Put-in-Bay after tugs chopped up the ice.
Officials from companies grew peeved Monday as ice fishermen stood their ground. With mild temperatures and thick ice, parts of Lake Erie were looking more and more like Eskimo communes, as fishermen had set up shanties on the ice.
Jerry Smith, of Marblehead, was out there Monday afternoon, fishing through a small hole he had drilled in the ice. He said the sport livens up the dreary season.
”There’s not much to do this time of year, so people who like fishing enjoy it,” Smith said.
It would have been more enjoyable had some fish ventured near the small opening he made in the ice.
”It’s more fun when you’re catching some,” Smith said. “I’ve caught about two today.”
A few shanties away, a group tormented Smith when they told him they caught about 20 fish.
Still, winter fishing has a particular advantage over the summer version of this sport.
”The fish from the cold water taste better,” Smith said.
Nowakowski said the Put-in-Bay docks project is expected to be completed by May, so he needs his work materials quickly. The tugs were supposed to travel from South Bass Island to Catawba Island early Monday. They would have traveled back to South Bass Island to unload any dock components, and then back to Cleveland.
The U.S. Coast Guard released a statement that said efforts are being made to limit any impact on ice activities, including ice fishing.
As of Monday, the score is Ice Fishermen “1,” Coast Guard “0.”