Ice fishing accident kills two; authorities stress safety

By Anna Yee

January 9, 2013 Updated Jan 10, 2013 at 11:48 AM CDT

MARSHALL CO., Ill. -- The lure of fishing is year round, even in Central Illinois.

"Ice fishing is very popular," said Josh Catour, the fishing & camping manager at Bass Pro Shops. "We've got a lot of die hard anglers around here that don't like to quit fishing throughout the year."

Josh Catour is one of those ice fishers.

Catour says these past cold days have more people stocking up on gear, but you don't want to skip out on safety equipment, like life jackets, rope, and boot cleats.

"It's also nice to have ice climbers," said Catour, "a device that has two handles and a pick at the end. So, if you do fall through, you can pick your way and climb out of your hole."

Locally, fatal accidents are reported about once or twice a year.

On Tuesday, Gary Hyatt, 68, of Lacon. and Thomas Marchesi, 62, of Toluca, were ice fishing on a private pond in rural Lacon and died after apparently falling into the water.

Marshall County authorities are still investigating the incident and say the men were not likely using any protective gear.

Besides using the proper safety equipment, you'll want to know your ice color meanings: dark, dirty, and white ice is unsafe. The bluer the ice, the better.

And you'll want to check the thickness of the ice.

"For the most part, we look at at least four to five inches before we know it's safe to be out on the ice," said Pekin Fire Chief Kurt Nelson.

Authorities say the Marshall County men were fishing on ice about 3 to 4 inches deep.

Fire and rescue crews also advise keeping track of the water current and never go fishing alone.

"Always go out in pairs," said Chief Nelson. "Make sure you take a cell phone with you. Let people know where you're going to be at just in case something comes up."

If you still aren't hooked on these safety measures, consider the price you could pay.

"You can get away with less than one hundred dollars of safety stuff to start ice fishing," said Catour. "And to take that extra precaution, no fish of any size is worth the risk of your life and your family."

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