SINCLAIR, Maine — Three ice fishermen who set out to cross Long Lake in northern Aroostook County on all-terrain vehicles went through thin ice on the waterway Thursday morning, officials with the Maine Warden Service said.
The trio, who were traveling to a fishing destination, got out safely, but wardens once again are stressing that ice conditions on many lakes and ponds may not be safe enough to hold people or heavy equipment or vehicles.
Deborah Turcotte, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said Thursday evening that all three of the men were from central Maine.
Travis Austin, 39, of Gardiner, Jeff Nicknair, 30, of Augusta and Hershel Albert, 67, of Gardiner left a camp off Route 162 in Sinclair at approximately 8 a.m., according to Turcotte. Austin was driving the ATV and Nicknair was a passenger. Albert was on the tote sled.
The men checked the ice about halfway across the lake and it was 7.5 inches thick, and then continued to cross before going through ice about 1.5 inches thick approximately 100 feet from shore, according to Warden Adrian Marquis. The men jumped off the ATV but broke through the ice. All got out safely.
Long Lake has a couple of miles of open water, according to the warden service.
Aaron Bailey, 34, of Gardiner, who was traveling alongside the men on a snowmobile, brought the men to shore. None needed medical attention.
Turcotte said the incident occurred about 50 feet from where a snowmobile went through 4-inch-thick ice on Saturday.
In addition to the ATV and tote sled, two portable ice shacks, an ice auger, three ice fishing traps, two pack baskets and a cooler went into the water.
The warden service advised anglers, snowmobilers and others who like to recreate on Maine’s lakes and ponds in the winter that ice conditions on many waterways throughout the state right now may not be safe.
Wardens are suggesting that people test the thickness of the ice often when going onto a lake or pond, and to walk out first while testing it before bringing vehicles and gear along with them. If the ice is not thick enough to hold, turn around and go back to shore or a safe location.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of checking ice conditions right now,” said Marquis, “People really need to take the time to drill test holes as often as they can.”
Warden Gary Sibley responded to the call for assistance.