Man, 28, dies in ice fishing accident on a lake near Barry’s Bay

Ontario Provincial Police Photo by Shutterstock/Lester Balajadia

Around 9:30 a.m. on March 25, officers from the Ontario Provincial Police’s (OPP) Bancroft detachment received a report that a 28-year-old man from the Hastings Highlands area had not returned home after going ice fishing on Bark Lake, Ont., the night before.

After arriving at the lake, the OPP called in assistance from its Underwater Search and Recovery Unit. Divers searched the lake, locating the man’s body on Sunday morning just after 11 a.m. He was pronounced dead on the scene. The OPP’s investigation into the incident is ongoing and a post-mortem examination has yet to be conducted.

The local community has set up a GoFundMe page to provide financial support to the deceased’s family, which includes his wife, his one-and-a-half-year-old son, and a second baby expected in October.

Bark Lake is approximately 15 kilometres east of Barry’s Bay and is a popular ice fishing spot in the winter. The lake, which stretches 14 kilometres in length and six kilometres in width, is known for its lake trout.

While stable throughout colder months, Bark Lake operates on a dam system and is fed by the Madawaska River, which can cause more rapid changes in water depth and ice thickness. This, combined with March’s warm weather, can cause the ice to be less predictable.

“Be familiar with the lake you’re on,” says Joel Devenish, a Constable with the OPP’s Bancroft detachment.

Before heading out on a frozen lake, you should be aware of its changing conditions. Measure the ice in several locations to ensure it’s thick enough to be on. The Red Cross says that ice should be 15 centimetres thick for walking and 25 centimetres thick for snowmobiling.

Each winter, approximately 25 to 30 Canadians die in ice-related activities, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. If you are heading out on a frozen lake, safety is the first priority. The bureau advises that you avoid going out at night. Reduced visibility can cause you to wander into an area of weak ice or open water.

Looking for a few more ice safety tips? Always travel with a companion. That way, if you fall through the ice, they may be able to rescue you or at least call for help. Wear a lifejacket or some type of buoyant suit. If you go through the ice, this will increase your chances of surviving. Finally, stay off ice where there are fast-moving currents or narrows. The fast-moving water can cause the ice in those areas to be much thinner.

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