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Ice fishing draws hundreds along Lake Erie during winter artic blast

Jon Fickert has been ice fishing since he was a kid with his father on Lake Erie.

OAK HARBOR, Ohio — As we approach the end of our cold spell, people won't have many more chances to hit Lake Erie for some ice fishing. The popular winter hobby has drawn hundreds over the past two weeks.

Jon Fickert, a local ice guide and ice fisherman, says winter started late but they've finally had a chance to hit the ice. He's been ice fishing since he was kid with his dad in Erie and Ottawa counties. So naturally, with ice on the water, he hopped on his snowmobile and hit the lake to see what he could catch.

"The big draw to Lake Erie ice fishing is we have a chance to catch big walleye and lots of them," he added, "so there's no one else in the world that you can go that you can catch walleye this size and this many."

Fickert says you do have to be cautious and prepared when ice fishing. He recommends dressing warm, having a GPS, heater, extra hats and gloves, a phone and extras of everything. He also recommends for safety, not just an ordinary rope, but a ski rope, so that if someone falls through the ice, it's easier to throw and pull someone out

RELATED: Best practices to stay safe while enjoying ice-covered ponds and rivers

Jon stressed ice fishing is a different type of challenge compared to regular fishing.

"If you're in a boat, you can travel around and try different spots," he said, "and if you're on ice, you got eight inches and that's your spot. You're working a fish in one area."

Lake Erie Shores and Islands official Brian Edwards says winter attractions like ice fishing have really grown over the past few years.

"Helping people getting over those misnomers that this is only a summer spot, that, you know, we're just Cedar Point and the islands and there's really nothing else -- when nothing could be further from the truth," said Edwards.

With a warmup on the way, Jon is urging everyone to be safe. He says the next few days will probably be your last chance to ice fish as the warmer temperatures and southerly winds will start to crack the ice.

Fickert said the snow actually makes it harder for ice to form on the lake, so although it's been cold, the snow has not helped as much. But, people were still out trying to get that big catch.

He doesn't think there's many days left to ice fish but he is urging everyone to be careful and look at the winds and temperatures. 

The warmer temperatures will melt the ice but also a switch to winds coming from the south could crack chunks of that ice off and if you're out there, send you straight to Canada.

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