I noticed a couple days ago when I checked the Bayfield web cam that were there no cars on the lake heading for LaPointe and that the Christmas trees used to mark the road had been removed. According to the news source of western Lake Superior, the Duluth News Tribune, the US Coast Guard will begin ice breaking operations between Bayfield and LaPointe on Madeline Island some time on Monday or Tuesday.
The lake began its own ice breaking operations a couple miles north of Bayfield near Roy's Point. A couple guys out jigging for lake trout went through the ice on their four wheeler yesterday afternoon. Even though they came back to land on the same tracks they drove out on, shifting ice, warm weather, and wind had opened up a spot and in they went. They were in the invigorating 32F(0C) water for about 25 minutes before the wind sled got out and rescued them. One guy went to the Ashland hospital and was treated for hypothermia. I would imagine the wheeler is at the bottom of the lake. As tasty as lake trout and coho from the cold water can be, a person needs to take a few precautions when venturing out this time of year. The old man was a classic thin ice fisherman; they always bite better when the ice just forms and when its going out. His technique, NOT endorsed by my mother, was to wear snowshoes and a vintage Stearns life jacket over his snowmobile suit. The key piece of gear was two wooden dowels with finishing nails drilled into the ends on a piece of string around his neck. Using these two 'ice picks' a person could haul their frozen rear end out of the water fairly quickly. Once you're out, getting to shore before your clothing freezes on you becomes the goal. Wool Malone type pants and you're all good; blue jeans and you will soon be like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, right before Dorothy shows up with the oil.
In the next few weeks I hope to be rounding Roy's Point in my Aquanaut. Ice breakers and guys going through the ice are just two more signs of the spring we are all looking forward to.