Ice fishing worries village leaders

By Jonathan Delozier -

Ice fishing at the Wellington Upground Reservoir has become a winter diversion for some in the Greater Cleveland area, but officials say the activity is unsafe.

Village councilman Mark Bughman raised the subject at a recent meeting, pointing out how popular the reservoir has become, while councilman Guy Wells questioned how safe ice fishing is and asked whether the village has ever attempted to regulate it.

Recreational activity at the reservoir is overseen by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which on its website urges extreme caution.

The ODNR says to remember no ice is safe ice and to have a “float plan” with someone who will know you’ll be ice fishing. Tell that person where you plan to fish, where you plan to park your vehicle, and when you plan to return home.

Local ice fishing reports can be obtained by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE.

Wellington mayor Hans Schneider said his father has been an avid ice fisherman at the reservoir. But it is not something he would do himself.

“There’s nothing in our village ordinances that prohibit it,” he said. “I know people enjoy it, so more power to them. It’s not really my thing to go out there in the cold. I think the main thing, whether you’re fishing on our reservoir or the lake, is to make sure it’s safe. We don’t want to see tragedies out there. It’s an isolated area and in this kind of weather, it’s even more isolated.”

Ice fishing has claimed at least one life in recent memory. In 2009, a miles-wide chunk of ice in Oak Harbor broke away from Lake Erie’s shoreline, trapping 135 fishers and killing one who fell into the freezing water.

Wellington fire chief Mike Wetherbee does not recommend the activity. He recalls a rescue at the reservoir 15 years ago after a man fell through the ice.

“Know your limitations,” he said. “Even knowing those limitations, I’d advise against it. Most people know their limitations and how thick the ice needs to be, but other will just say, ‘Hey, there’s ice so let’s go.’ Many times people will walk pets on the ice and they or their animal will get in trouble. We’ve had many animal rescues on smaller, private ponds.”

Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.

By Jonathan Delozier