Rod, Gun & Game: Float suit saves death while ice fishing

Rod, Gun & Game: Float suit saves death while ice fishing

Avid musky angler Carl Schenk was fishing for his birthday last Wednesday with his friend Tom Reinhardt at the Buffalo Small Boat Harbor. When Schenck arrived at the port, he noticed that there was no one there, but there was ice and it looked solid enough for a couple of hard-water anglers who weren’t afraid of a little chill in the air. Testing the ice with a potato rod, the duo was able to get into the water at the old boat ramp near the restaurant. Not too far away, they tested the white ice to find four inches of solid, apparently safe ice. Then the air became warm and rain fell shortly before. It was Carl’s birthday and Tom was tagged along for the safety of the moment of celebration when Carl catches his first fish and calls the day a success. It was Carl’s annual birthday custom; He turned 69 this year.

Lucky fisherman Karl Schenk credited his “float suit” with saving his life Wednesday when he hit the ice at Buffalo Small Boat Harbor.

It didn’t take long. Using three-pound test line and a lightweight ice fishing rod, Schenk counted his first fish, a small yellowtail. As he sat there, he noticed that the ice began to sink in a large, wide circle around him. He shouted at Tom that he thought they should go back. “Maybe it’s getting mushy,” Carl shouted. Tom said he was fine. “I’m heading inside,” Carl said.

“I broke through the ice in nine feet of water. I was wearing a Frabill flotation suit and making my way along the route we had taken. The potato strip passed and I was going in before I could turn back. Fortunately, I threw my body forward, rolled a couple of feet, and stood on Hands and knees, I scrambled to the better ice. I was soaking wet to the waist and my boots full of water. I was a little heavier too, with my boots full of water and more water dripping from the bottom holes of the floatsuit. I’m sure it could have been worse. I was happy Very happy to get to shore.Tom came, avoiding my body hole in the ice, and was fine.

“I went home to Cheektowaga to dry off and sat on the couch with a cup of coffee, waiting for the adrenaline rush to leave,” Schenk added. It was an unforgettable experience, and I hope I will never repeat it. That water was cold!”

For complete safety, floatation suits are essential equipment when it comes to all-season ice fishing. “The Frabill Float suit is the only one that is classified as a USCG Type 3 Certified Personal Flotation Device,” Schenk explained. “Yes, it is expensive at about $500, but on the day, it was worth every penny. Plus, it is very warm and comfortable.” -And now I can attest to its float rating too, so much so that I wear it when fishing for muskies from my boat in the fall and early winter.You never know!

When fall and pre-winter fishing on the Niagara River, Schenk also wears his floatation suit. In some years, water temperatures in late November can be just above freezing. The muskie monster does not stop eating when the water gets cold; They’re slowing down a bit. For many local anglers who are members of the Niagara Muskie Association, a regional conservation and fishing organization under the leadership of President Scott Mackey, late-season muskie fishing is one of the best times of the year to catch and release a trophy muskie. This group maintained a comprehensive and meticulous data collection record of muskie release records in assisting NYSDEC in managing the Niagara River and lower Lake Erie muskie resources. The group has also incorporated countless projects to benefit the fishery and is a strong promotional asset for catch and release as a common practice. Especially when it comes to catching giant muskie. Among other management tactics, the group worked hard to pass legislation to move the minimum ranger size to help ensure that muskies are caught and released in Lake Erie and the Niagara River.

When fishing over cold, cold water for muskies in the fall and early winter, Carl Schenk adds that wearing his “flotation suit” provides an extra bit of protection.

Muskellunge are New York’s largest freshwater fish, capable of reaching sizes approaching five feet in length. These predators are toothy and are at the top of the food chain. The musky season in New York State begins each year on June 1 in inland waters (Lake Chautauqua, Lake Findlay, Bear Lake, Cassadaga Chain of Lakes, etc.) and on June 15 in Great Lakes waters (Lake Erie, Upper Niagara River, Lower Niagara River, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River). The minimum size in New York State is 40 inches for inland lakes and 54 inches for Great Lakes waters. NYSDEC reports that muskies can be found in 13 lakes and 19 rivers in New York, with the most popular fisheries in the Upper Niagara River, St. Lawrence River and Lake Chautauqua. The season ends on the last day of November every year.

They say that being lucky enough to catch a muskie requires a fair amount of skill and patience. This fish has gained a reputation as a 10,000 fish, but in the Niagara River, many anglers fish or drift in search of the largest muskie.

During our conversation about being careful when ice fishing and the safety of Schenk’s “Frabill Float Suit,” which doubles as a USCG-certified Type III personal flotation device, we talked about musky fishing. Something Schenk enjoyed in his retirement years.

Local expert anglers Tony Syme and Scott Mackey have provided a resource for all others to learn more about muskie fishing. Their knowledge from the waterways of the muskie fishing area over several decades is available for all to learn from on the NYSDEC website on Muskie 101. The article provides fishing tips, advice on rods, reels, lines, leaders, and bait, and how to handle and release them properly. This is a huge local fish. Visit

Ultimately, this was a birthday celebration that accomplished and humble fisherman Karl Schenk will never forget.

External calendar:

February 10 – Harry A. Smith’s Southtowns Walleye Association Annual Installation and Awards Dinner, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg, 5:30 p.m.

February 12 – West Falls Preservation Society, monthly meeting, 8 p.m., 55 Bridge Street, West Falls.

February 13 – Erie County Hunters’ Meeting, February 13, 7:30 p.m., Hamburg Road and Gun, Hickox Road, Hamburg.

February 13 – Free 4-Hour Kids Fly Fishing Program, SUNY Fredonia Rockefeller Center for the Arts – Costello Room, 7-8:30 p.m., Information: Alberto Rey: 716-410-7003.

February 15 – Southtowns Walleye Association monthly meeting, 7 p.m., 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg.

February 15-18 – Niagara Outdoor Expo, Niagara Falls; Information: 716-278-2100;

February 17-18 – Free fishing days in New York State, no fishing license required.

February 24 – Ducks Unlimited, Chautauqua North Branch – Annual Banquet and Auction, Blessed Mary Angela Parish, 324 Townsend Street, Dunkirk; $60 per ticket or $90 per couple; Information: 716-785-1409 716-410-2409.

March 8-10 – WNY Sports, Travel & Outdoor Expo; Hamburg;

Note: Send calendar items to

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *