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Old 01-04-2008, 05:51 PM
 
Location: Northern Maine
9,492 posts, read 14,286,680 times
Reputation: 8909

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Everybody has been told at some time in his life to stay off thin ice. Nobody wants to fall through the ice. It's a thoroughly disagreeable experience and it can kill you.

Newcomers to Maine have a lot to learn about lakes and ice. The most important thing to know is that ice varies in thickness on the same lake for many reasons. The inlets and outlets always have thinner ice because water is flowing under the ice. Many lakes have underwater springs. Water at a temperature of about 50 degrees rises to the surface and can create thin spots or even large open holes. Always ask locals about specific lakes.

Ice floats. It floats because it is lighter than water. When water freezes it expands. The colder it gets the more it expands. Ice in contact with the water below is at 32 degrees. Ice on the surface can be 20 below zero which means it has expanded a lot. When a lake is "making ice" and the ice is expanding the lake booms and cracks. This can be disconcerting when you are walking on a lake. Don't make jokes about your heavy companion. He didn't make the ice crack and boom.

When it snows on lakes the snow provides an insulating layer. Even though it's 20 below the lake may not add thickness as fast as expected. As snow increases in depth and weight it pushes down on the ice. As the ice cracks, water comes up through the crack and spreads out in all directions. Snow absorbs water and it becomes slush. Snowmobiles don't go well in slush. If you are on a snowmobile and encounter slush, apply extra power and try to get across it. If you just spin to a stop you will likely not get out of your predicament without help. There could be two feet of ice under you, but your snowmobile won't go.

If you are following a snowmobile and the first one in line hits slush, spread out. Don't follow him into it. If you have at least one snowmobile on a good surface and you have a long rope you may be able to get everybody going again.

Right now we have about 30 inches of snow on most lakes around here. It's all powder. We had winds of 20 MPH last night an part of today. That dry snow piles into drifts and moves down wind toward the lee shore. I have seen snow piled 15 to 20 feet deep on the lee side of a lake. That's often the east side. Imagine the surprise of the new owners when they come to their camp for the first time in winter and all they see is the top of the chimney sticking up through the snow. Those many tons of snow pushing down on the ice mean that the east side of the lake is more likely to "slush up" as they say.

Late in the season in March or early April the ice begins to thaw from the edges out. It is not uncommon for a lake to have 18 inches of ice off shore, but open water for 10 feet or more out from the shore. Ice fishermen often use ladders or portable bridges to get onto the ice. Small ponds lose their ice first. Large lakes are the last to become ice free. In our area the ice out date on large lakes is often around May 10.

Just because you see a snowmobile track on a lake does not mean the ice is safe. Every year some of those tracks end at a hole in the ice. We lose a few people every year due to snowmobiles going through the ice. These generally involve adult beverages and occur at night. As the old detective used to say on NYPD Blue, "Be careful out there."
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Old 01-04-2008, 06:27 PM
 
Location: Corinth, ME
2,712 posts, read 4,914,794 times
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thanks for that wonderful educational essay on ice. I guess ice is like ... well snow in the (at least alleged) aspect that the Eskimo have many, many words for it in its various configurations. Not all snow is created equal ( just try shoveling WET snow as opposed to powder to prove that! LOL) and neither is ice.

I have had friends who ice fished when I lived in the north, but I am paranoid enough of water in the liquid state... not likely to venture onto the frozen stuff when there is liquid under it!
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Old 01-04-2008, 06:47 PM
 
Location: West Michigan
12,084 posts, read 33,134,961 times
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Very nice post. Very informative to those who might not know what to look for and what to expect.

Starwalker, I have to agree about not ice fishing. I USED to go, even used to enjoy going. One fine winter day when I was 19 I decided to go out to my favorite little spot and get a few hopefully. Drive out there with the old jeep, load up my sled with the tools needed. Hand Ice auger (Too cheap and/or poor to buy a gas one). slush dipper, tip-ups, bucket seat, bait, lunch, big thermos of hot chocolate (with a small bag of marshmallows to add as needed) , all in all everything to spend a few enjoyable hours on the ice. About 1/2 mile out, I find a hole some idiot didn't mark; how you might ask did I find said hole? By stepping right into it because the snow had blown over it and you couldn't see it. Went in right up to my crotch, when I did the whole "Holy crap, I'm gonna swim", jerk back and roll away the heel of my boot caught on the edge of the hole and was peeled off faster than a banana peel by a starving monkey. As I sat up on the ice I could see it was just a small hole and I was just in time to watch my boot sink into the depths of the lake. After a quiet "Oh darn it all" (you could hear for 10 miles, for at least 5 minutes) I turned around and marched back across the lake soaked to the skin, po'ed beyond words, and swearing I was NEVER going ice fishing again. As far As I know, the whole sled full of gear was either found by another lucky fisherman, or sunk to the bottom in the Spring thaw; don't know, don't care. Last time I was on the ice. ever!

That was almost exactly 25 years ago.
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Old 01-04-2008, 07:42 PM
 
1,961 posts, read 4,163,781 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bydand View Post
Very nice post. Very informative to those who might not know what to look for and what to expect.

Starwalker, I have to agree about not ice fishing. I USED to go, even used to enjoy going. One fine winter day when I was 19 I decided to go out to my favorite little spot and get a few hopefully. Drive out there with the old jeep, load up my sled with the tools needed. Hand Ice auger (Too cheap and/or poor to buy a gas one). slush dipper, tip-ups, bucket seat, bait, lunch, big thermos of hot chocolate (with a small bag of marshmallows to add as needed) , all in all everything to spend a few enjoyable hours on the ice. About 1/2 mile out, I find a hole some idiot didn't mark; how you might ask did I find said hole? By stepping right into it because the snow had blown over it and you couldn't see it. Went in right up to my crotch, when I did the whole "Holy crap, I'm gonna swim", jerk back and roll away the heel of my boot caught on the edge of the hole and was peeled off faster than a banana peel by a starving monkey. As I sat up on the ice I could see it was just a small hole and I was just in time to watch my boot sink into the depths of the lake. After a quiet "Oh darn it all" (you could hear for 10 miles, for at least 5 minutes) I turned around and marched back across the lake soaked to the skin, po'ed beyond words, and swearing I was NEVER going ice fishing again. As far As I know, the whole sled full of gear was either found by another lucky fisherman, or sunk to the bottom in the Spring thaw; don't know, don't care. Last time I was on the ice. ever!

That was almost exactly 25 years ago.
Wow, after all that all you could utter was " Oh darn it all "? What a polite well brought up boy you were
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Old 01-04-2008, 07:46 PM
 
Location: West Michigan
12,084 posts, read 33,134,961 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moughie View Post
Wow, after all that all you could utter was " Oh darn it all "? What a polite well brought up boy you were
That's how I remember it anyway.

I might have uttered something else... long and loud
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Old 01-05-2008, 05:34 AM
 
Location: Northern Maine
9,492 posts, read 14,286,680 times
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Bydand reports:
"About 1/2 mile out, I find a hole some idiot didn't mark; how you might ask did I find said hole? By stepping right into it because the snow had blown over it and you couldn't see it."

When you make a hole in the ice for ice fishing or to get water for your camp it is polite to mark the hole with a stick or evergreen branch. Anybody would know the branch did not get there by itself and it has some significance. It's an ice fishing hole, a place to get water or there is a minnow trap under there to get bait.

Ice used to be very valuable. Maine ice was shipped to New Orleans and many other southern ports and brought high prices. We cut the ice on lakes when it was about 14 inches thick. As I said earlier, the ice at the bottom is 32 degrees. You don't store ice at 32 degrees because it won't keep. You bring the ice to the shore and save it in the shade until you have had a good 20 below night. Then it goes into the ice house. That way it has to warm up 50 degrees before it starts to melt. The ice house was always in a stand of big pines so it's shaded from the sun. A layero cedar sawdust was put on the ground abourt a foot thick. Then the ice is slid into the house on boards, leaving an inch or so between the sides of the blocks. Cedar sawdust is shoveled onto each layer and swept into the spaces between the blocks. Otherwise you would have one massive block of ice weighing many tons. When you remove an ice block in August you hose off the saw dust and make home made iced cream. Mmmm good.

Yes, I have "put up ice". We had a Model T Ford with a cutter on it that shaved a slot in the ice. That was a lot faster than sawing it with a huge hand saw. We put it in Chester Thwing's ice house. Chet had a Stanley Steamer (made in Maine) and I rode in it during WWII. In the summer time the Model T was the garbage truck. I would drive the garbage truck out to the dump and throw corn cobs at the bears before I dared get down on the ground to tip the dump.

The stuff you get reminded of on CD Maine.
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Old 01-05-2008, 07:28 AM
 
Location: Florida (SW)
38,424 posts, read 18,180,970 times
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When I was a boy..........I remember the ice cutting out on Lake Massawippi in North Hatley Quebec. That was in the 1940's and it was all done by hand, and brought to shore on large horse drawn sledges. Dad used to say that our ice would be "clinking in a crystal glass on a white table cloth with a rose in a bud vase on a pullman dining car going to Baltimore" That was quite an image to a little boy on a frozen lake in Canada. I could see the box cars loaded up with blocks of frozen Massawippi, heading southward out of town.
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Old 01-05-2008, 08:08 AM
 
Location: Virginia (soon Ellsworth)
653 posts, read 1,677,820 times
Reputation: 327
very nice posts and informative, thanks
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Old 01-05-2008, 09:30 AM
 
Location: Maine
7,728 posts, read 10,811,809 times
Reputation: 8310
Excellant stories!! Thank you so much
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Old 01-06-2008, 05:13 AM
 
Location: Gary, WV & Springfield, ME
5,826 posts, read 8,459,169 times
Reputation: 17250
And if anyone sees me building a snowman on a lake, would you please be kind enough to mention that I am on a lake and not in a meadow?

Senior moments are so frustrating.
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