23 February 2012
by Dennis Yusko
Warm weather leaves two ice fishermen surprised and stranded on Saratoga Lake, NY, USA.
Firefighters raced an airboat to the middle of Saratoga Lake at around noon Thursday to rescue Don Mattice of Saratoga Springs and Darryl Lallande of Mandeville, Louisiana, from a thinning ice floe.
At around 7:30 a.m., the friends had walked onto a mostly frozen lake near Silver Beach Road. They set up a fishing shanty several hundred feet from shore and dropped their lines in a hole.
“It was solid ice,” Mattice recalled.
But while the pair were searching for perch, temperatures soared to 45 degrees, and melted much of the lake’s ice. The ice receded far from the lake’s shoreline, leaving Mattice, 62, and Lallande, 46, stranded on a floating patch with no sure way back to land.
Area resident Todd Wettlaufer spotted the danger. He contacted police, who alerted the Malta Ridge Volunteer Fire Company and Arvin Hart Fire Company Ice Rescue team from Stillwater. Two team members glided to the men and retrieved them, their shanty and fishing equipment.
Standing on solid ground under a surprisingly strong February sun, Mattice said the pair were unaware that the ice had shrunken around them. “We were standing on seven or eight inches of ice out there,” said Mattice, wearing tall boots, a hunter’s jacket and cap.
The incident occurred on the same day a State Trooper fell through the ice of Oneida Lake while trying to rescue a man who had broken through, according to news reports. On Wednesday, a group of adults and children who’d gone ice fishing in Oneida Lake had to be rescued after they floated away on a slab of ice, according to reports.
Michael Ferrara, an assistant at Saratoga Tackle on Saratoga Lake, said Thursday that winter had been extremely warm and slow for ice fishing. Lake ice that usually forms in December didn’t come until late-January.
“Now, the season’s over, basically,” Ferrara said.
Some diehards were still ice fishing in Saratoga Lake and Lake Lonely, using wood boards to reach ice where there is water, Ferrara said. Ice fishing supplies were already being sold at discounted prices, he said. “If you really look at it, it’s been a non-existent winter,” Ferrara said.
Thursday marked a memorable first experience fishing on ice for Lallande, a southerner who knows Mattice through work. Mattice said he goes ice fishing three or four times a year. But he said that in the future, he probably wouldn’t go in such conditions.
“The ice broke away quite a bit,” he said.