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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Simcoe Fishing Update - Feb 1 2008

It’s a calm, mild, slightly slushy morning out on Cook’s Bay.

The fish aren’t biting a lot, yet, but that doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm of Alex Younes of Richmond Hill.

“I caught a small perch earlier this morning,” he says with a smile. “There’ll be more this afternoon.”

Chad Paiero, proprietor of Lucky’s Fish Huts in Lefroy, says many people were catching their 50 perch limit Monday. He’s about to head out and drill a few more holes in the foot-deep ice off the 4th Line to see if he can find some schools of fish for his clients.

“I promised Alex some fish today,” he says. “The ice is good. It’s now 10 to 12 inches thick. It’s been a great season so far for perch.”

Paiero has his huts a little more than half a kilometre off shore, spaced well apart, sitting on approximately 25 feet of water. If conditions continue to improve, and the weather forecast is encouraging, he’ll move some of the huts further into the bay, where the water can reach a 60-foot depth. Trout are more plentiful in the deeper water.

After a promising start in December, the thaw of three weeks ago delayed the traditional start of the ice fishing season by about a week, Paiero, whose family has been renting huts for 30 years near Monto Reno Marina, says.

“The average season is January 14 to March 15. We had early ice – people were out fishing on Christmas Day, without huts. The first part of Lake Simcoe to freeze is Gilford. We’re usually a week behind Gilford. There are about 50 to 60 huts out on the ice now. On a good day, they’re all catching something.”

A firefighter by profession, Paiero says safety is first and foremost among ice hut operators. He’s out first thing every morning checking the thickness of the ice.

A couple of cold nights will thicken the ice further north towards Kempenfelt Bay, Paiero adds.
For Younes, the tranquility of the surroundings is one of the main attractions.

“It’s just a 40-minute drive from Richmond Hill,” he says. “I’ll be coming back on the weekends with my kids. They love it. I have four children, my brother-in-law has four, my cousins have four. We all come up here and talk about fishing and the different types of fish in Lake Simcoe. Lake Simcoe has lots of fish.

“We like to teach the kids jigging and the variety of baiting methods. They get to be outdoors and play, instead of just playing Nintendo or being on the Internet. Ice fishing is a chance for them to experience the beauty our parents, and grandparents, passed onto us.”

Paiero draws clients from across the GTA and even as far away as Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Michigan. The Americans appreciate the size of the fish they can reel in on Lake Simcoe.

Patrons of the pastime no longer freeze their behinds either.

Virtually all rented huts are heated nowadays, have comfortable padded benches, and if you desire, Paiero can even deliver a made-to-order lunch to your door.

The remainder of the season looks promising, Paiero says.

“Weekends, we’re fully booked. People like getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the sounds of nature.”

Up-to-date local ice conditions can be found on the website included

Friday, January 18, 2008

Population Growth - Barrie/Innisfil

Simcoe County has to think beyond Barrie and Innisfil in dividing up future population and jobs, said county CAO Mark Aitken.

In an interview reacting to Barrie saying the city needs 40,000 of the county’s unallocated Barrie-South Simcoe projection of 76,900 people, Aitken said the county must consider the needs beyond Barrie and Innisfil.

“Bradford and Alliston are very important settlement communities in Simcoe County as well,” he said.

“Bradford West Gwillimbury is a municipality that has great opportunities and potential. It has an Official Plan that would put employment lands on Highway 400 and (which) has significant development interests and its proximity to the GTA puts Bradford as a municipality for growth opportunities.

“Innisfil is growing immensely and has some opportunities, ideals, vision and (developers’) interest. New Tec, with Honda and its industrial opportunities, has development interests and great opportunities. If you’ve got all these municipalities with great opportunities and potential development opportunities … I’d hate to get hung up … on numbers,” he said.

Barrie says it needs 40,000 of the unallocated 76,900 people, so the city can achieve a population of 220,000 – a figure that also includes the city reaching 180,000 through intensification within its current boundaries.

The 220,000 figure makes a $240-million upgrade to membrane technology at the city’s sewage treatment plant more affordable, said Barrie’s CAO Jon Babulic.

However, for it to be affordable and for its capacity to be well-used, the city needs additional people and jobs – which translates into additional land for 40,000 people.

“If we don’t get the population allocation, (Barrie) will have a plant meeting the more stringent regulations and another plant somewhere else would have to be built,” which Babulic said results in duplication.

“If we don’t get the population allocation, our development charges go right through the roof. We are no longer the desirable place we are. Here’s the regional answer.

“With these new restrictions on phosphorous, we will protect Lake Simcoe and we will accommodate growth. It’s a fit.”

Innisfil’s vision is to reach a population of 105,000, said Innisfil’s CAO Larry Allison – and according to the county’s growth projections, the county has set aside 15,300 for the town, a number that’s not included in the unallocated and much-discussed 76,900.

“Our population should be 105,000, and we’re in the mid 50,000s, so in theory, there is 50,000 additional (residents) Innisfil should and could accommodate,” said Allison.

Subtracting the 15,300, Innisfil requires approximately 35,000 of the unallocated 76,900.

Over the course of the fall, the province was expected several times to assist in disaggregating the 76,900.

Aitken did not deny a 20,000/20,000/35,000 possibility, which would focus on Bradford West Gwillimbury and New Tecumseth.

Barrie, Innisfil and the county are waiting to hear what provincial development facilitator Alan Wells will recommend to the province.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Annual flood comes early

Temple Avenue homeowner Stuart Dickson stands in front of his waterlogged property Wednesday.The water reached several feet in height along the Bell Ewart property.

Every year, Stuart Dickson's lawn turns into a swimming pool.

But last week, after several days of above 0 C temperatures and rainfall, the swimming pool was built a little earlier than usual. Flooding several feet deep put most of Dickson's Temple Avenue property underwater.

Many of his Belle Ewart neighbours were also affected, and several area streets were closed as a result of the flooding.

But Dickson says most of the neighbourhood is used to the annual rise in water.

"It's not that bad, it happens every year during the springtime," he said, standing on his driveway last week. "It's only for a couple days. It's almost gone already."

Although the flooding is an inconvenience for several homeowners in the area, little can be done to solve the problem. Much of the area affected sits close to Lake Simcoe, along flat, low lying land, said Innisfil mayor Brian Jackson.

A Bell Ewart property was mostly underwater after a large flood throughout the area last week. Several streets were closed in the area, as a result of the flood. The town provided free water for residents on private wells.

"It's a difficult problem to engineer," he said. "In the past, council has tried to do some remedial work. We've examined the culverts, corrected some outflow conditions and changed manhole structures to try and reduce the flooding. But it's part of the geography down there. It's simply prone to flooding; any engineering would have very serious ramifications in terms of cost and timing."

However, the town took several measures to lessen the impact on homeowners. The town has set up a pump in the area affected, to circulate the water.

Staff have also offered free drinking water to residents on private wells and asked South Simcoe Police to monitor the area.

"We're concerned about the bacterial count not being healthy. We've made water available at our water treatment plant," said Jackson.

The Temple Avenue and Balsam Road intersection was under water after last week's flood.

"We've also had police involved to monitor the residents, in case there are any safety issues down there. We're going to continue to monitor the area."

As a result of the flooding, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has advised affected residents who own private wells to avoid drinking their water.

"If your well was flooded, it could have been contaminated," said health unit spokesperson Kathy Dermott. "Until you can get your well water tested, use bottled water for drinking, cooking, making ice, washing (food) or brushing teeth, or boil your water rapidly for at least one minute."

Once flooding has receded, residents should have their wells disinfected and tested several times.

Several other areas within Innisfil were also affected by the high water levels. Although no flooding occurred at Kimberly Hunter-Gafur's Alcona home, rising waters in nearby creeks appear dangerous.

"All my neighbours, their backyards were flooded. We don't have a basement, so we're safe," she said. "There's been some huge floods, and this one was high. You could hear (the water rushing); it sounds like we're living beside Niagara Falls."

The mild weather has also caused most of the ice on the lake to break-up, creating dangerous conditions for snowmobiling and ice-fishing, said York Regional Police Constable Marina Orlovski.

"As a result of the recent milder weather, but despite the fact that ice has begun to form on portions of Lake Simcoe, lakes and streams are not completely frozen and (are therefore) not safe," she said. "There are still many areas of open water on the lake. Those who take part in activities such as snowmobiling and icefishing are reminded that conditions are still too dangerous to be out on the ice."

Anyone testing for ice thickness should wear proper floatation attire. However, residents should know the ice conditions, watch for grey, dark or porous spots, and tell someone about specific plans, before heading onto the lake.

"Snowmobiling and icefishing are inherently risky activities occurring in an uncontrolled and unpredictable natural setting," said Orlovski. "If you make smart, educated choices on safety, accidents can be prevented."

Instructions for disinfecting wells and food handling procedures can be found on the health unit's website at www.simcoemuskokahealth. org.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Be Wary of Waterways

Local residents should be wary of waterways given the record temperatures this week.
The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority issued a flood advisory Tuesday morning, advising residents that the unseasonably warm weather -- coupled with rainfall -- could lead to flooding.
Water will be flowing higher than normal causing local streams and rivers to become dangerous, especially in the vicinity of culverts and bridges.
The conservation authority advises all members of the public, and especially children, to stay away from all water bodies as unstable ice conditions, slippery banks and cold water combine for extremely dangerous conditions.
They also caution that ice is expected to break up and the potential for ice jams exists.
That sentiment was eched by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs.
Mike Farr, manager of trail programs, said riders should be cautious, as ice conditions are extremely unpredictable.
“There is absolutely no way to know if ice is safe unless you physically go and chop a hole in it and check the thickness of it yourself,” he said.
The OFSC has officially issued a yellow alert, which warns riders that swamps and waterways are unstable and will remain that way until “several nights of a deep freeze.”
“To take a snowmobile, or to do anything on ice really, you need at least four inches of hard blue ice at the very minimum,” said Mr. Farr.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

North York man missing since Sunday was found dead in Lake Simcoe yesterday, York Regional Police said.

A North York man missing since Sunday was found dead in Lake Simcoe yesterday, York Regional Police said.

Ilia Vaxman, 60, told his family Sunday morning that he was going ice fishing but he never returned home.

A desperate search ended when heavy fog lifted over the south end of Lake Simcoe and police were able to get their helicopter into the air.

The body was spotted off Roches Point in the Town of Georgina, police said.

As searchers began the second day of hunting for Vaxman, they were still hopeful of finding Vaxman safe and sound.

"We had witnesses who spotted him out on the ice on Sunday afternoon," Const. Marina Orlovski said. "It was still a search and rescue operation."

Vaxman's car was found early Monday morning on shore, giving police, as well as firefighters from Georgina and Innisfil, a focus for their hunt.

CFB Trenton search and rescue and three air boats were also used.

Poor visibility from heavy fog had prevented use of the York Regional Police helicopter before a break in the weather yesterday afternoon, police said.

The warm temperatures added to the instability of the ice and lakes, and rivers in south-central Ontario are not safe to walk on right now.

Police are advising anyone heading out to check with local authorities about the soundness of the ice at any time of year, regardless of the temperatures. Heavy snowfall can also insulate water and prevent it from freezing.

People should never go alone and always wear proper flotation attire when heading out onto frozen water.

Also be wary of grey, dark or porous spots in the ice because the strongest ice is usually hard and blue, police said.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Bodies of snowmobilers found in Lake Simcoe

Bodies of snowmobilers found in Lake Simcoe

The search for two missing snowmobilers ended in tragedy today after two bodies were recovered by evening.

Nearly six hours after the body of William Cameron was found around 3 p.m., police recovered the body of Stephen Docherty just metres away.

Police, who were joined in a search by family and friends of the two men, found the first body and spotted two snowmobiles in the water.

York Regional Police say Stephen Docherty, 43, and William Cameron, 40, set out at about 12:30 p.m. yesterday to go for a snowmobile ride.

Police said both residents of Georgina were experienced snowmobilers and were dressed appropriately for the weather. They were last seen headed for Lake Simcoe.

Charlotte Docherty, the wife of one of the missing men, said today that the community has rallied around them.

“All my friends are out (searching),” she said. “ I have a lot of support from my friends and family. We have lived here a lot of years and the whole neighbourhood. . .

"We're just praying."

Docherty called the disappearance of her husband and his friend “bizarre.” Both men are experienced snowmobilers and have intimate knowledge of the area and trails, she said. They have been friends for more than 17 years.

She said that when her husband didn’t return in time for dinner, she and her two children, 14 and 12, bundled up and began to search along the shores of Lake Simcoe with some of their friends.

As time crept on, they decided to call the police.

“Around 9 p.m., they were declared missing by one of their wives,” said Const. Marina Orlovski.

“The family had already been out looking for them with friends and neighbours. When they couldn’t find them, they called us.”

In a massive search and rescue effort, a command post was set up at Virginia Beach. A helicopter and hovercraft swept the lake, joining officers on ATVs and snowmobiles.