Ice fisherman still face danger

<p> <font size="2">The prize catch right now is wall-eye, but in order to keep one, it must be longer than 15 inches.</font> </p>

There is a select group of people that seem to love the freezing cold weather.

You can find them in shanties on Lake Erie, about a quarter-mile off the shore.

The bitter cold weather has made the surface of Lake Erie 5 to 10 inches thick, which makes it safe enough for ice fishing.

"We haven't had any ice in about three years, so everybody is eager to get out right now," said Reid Van Cleve, with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

There are still some areas that are not ready to bear weight.

An airboat fell through the ice last Friday, creating a dangerous hole. On Saturday, a man on an ATV drove into that hole.

READ:Lake Erie anglers urged not to go out on ice alone

There were no seriously injuries in either incident, but ODNR officials warn everyone to avoid slush.

They say you can always count on one simple rule, follow the leader.

"Go out on everybody else's trail. Kind of see where everybody else is going," said Van Cleve.

Christmas trees are set up on the ice, marking a safe travel route. That chore is tasked to the more seasoned fishermen.

"I've been doing it for 50 years," said fisherman David Holder. "The first couple times out, it's usually a walk & spud your way out until you get the Christmas tree trail. Then you go from there."

Right now however, even the most experienced people on the ice will admit that this year is just plain bitter.

"Everybody that's out there pretty much has shanties. Nobody is sitting out today," said Holder.

But for the die-hard fishermen, they've had three years to plan for this weather, and they are prepared with survival suits and safety plans.

But even fishermen know when not to venture out.

"Any wind out of the East, don't go out of here," Holder said with a laugh.

It's still very early in the season. Holder says the best fishing will be start in February, because the fish will begin to school-up and spawn.

The prize catch right now is wall-eye, but in order to keep one, it must be longer than 15 inches.

ONDR officials will be out enforcing size limits and checking for fishing licenses.