Transcript: The Effects of No Ice on the Great Lakes | Mar 27, 2020

Jeyan stands in the studio. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and striped blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "Ontario Hubs: Fishing on thin ice. Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

Jeyan says A RELATIVELY MILD WINTER THIS YEAR HAS RESULTED IN VERY LITTLE ICE COVER ACROSS THE GREAT LAKES. MANY SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES RELY ON THE ICE FOR RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES SUCH AS ICE FISHING AS AN ECONOMIC BOOST THROUGH TOURISM DURING THE SHOULDER SEASON. I VISITED MANITOULIN ISLAND AND THE SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO TOWN OF MITCHELL'S BAY TO SEE HOW UNPREDICTABLE ICE LEVELS AFFECT THOSE COMMUNITIES.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs."

Music plays as fast clips show tents set up in the snow on a frozen lake. People of all ages approach holes in the ice to fish.

A man in his forties in a reflective jacket and a beanie says PART OF IT IS THE EXCITEMENT OF REELING IN A FISH, CATCHING IT, YOUR HEART GETS RACING AS SOON AS YOU GET THAT LITTLE BITE AND YOU WANT TO REEL IT IN. THAT'S LIKE THE ADRENALINE.

Clips show people catching large fish.

Jeyan says ICE FISHING HAS A LONG AND RICH HISTORY ON MANITOULIN. THE ISLAND HAS 108 FRESHWATER LAKES AND THE WATER IS HOME TO SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR SPECIES TO CATCH, INCLUDING RAINBOW TROUT AND LAKE TROUT. FOR THE PAST 12 YEARS, THE WIKWEMIKONG FIRST NATION, SITUATED ON THE NORTHEASTERN PART OF MANITOULIN, HAS HOSTED AN ICE FISHING DERBY ON THE ISLAND. THIS YEAR, THE WEEKEND-LONG COMPETITION SPANNED OVER TWO BODIES OF WATER: LAKE MANITOU AND MANITOWANING BAY.

A map appears briefly showing the location of Manitoulin Island, then homes in to show the location of Lake Manitou and Manitowaning Bay.

The man in the reflective jacket reappears.
A caption reads "Mitchell Manitowabi. Wikwemikong Tourism."

Mitchell says WHAT WE WERE TRYING TO DO WAS TRYING TO FIND TOURISM WITHIN THE SHOULDER SEASON BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY MANITOULIN IS BEAUTIFUL DURING THE SUMMER TIME BUT NOT TOO MANY PEOPLE COME IN THE WINTER. SO THAT'S WHAT WE WANTED TO TRY TO ATTRACT.

Jeyan says THE TOURNAMENT PROVIDES A BIG ECONOMIC BOOST TO THE AREA. THIS YEAR MARKED THE BIGGEST TURNOUT TO DATE. MORE THAN 700 ANGLERS DESCENDED ON MANITOULIN ISLAND FOR THE COMPETITION, 400 OF WHOM WERE VISITING FROM OUT OF TOWN.

Mitchell says WE HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE FROM NORTHEASTERN ONTARIO, SUDBURY, SAULT STE. MARIE, ALONG THAT HIGHWAY SOUTH OF THE CORRIDOR. BUT NOW WE STARTED TO NOTICE THAT PEOPLE ARE COMING IN FROM THE STATES TOO, SAULT STE. MARIE, MICHIGAN, AND AS FAR EAST AS QUEBEC. SO THEY ARE COMING HERE... THEY WANT TO COME AND FISH THE PRISTINE HARD WATER OF MANITOULIN ISLAND.

A woman talking to a group of people says THE RED STAMP. THAT MEANS YOU'RE FISHING IN MANITOWANING BAY. THEY WILL ONLY WEIGH IN...

Jeyan says ANGLERS START THEIR DAY BRIGHT AND EARLY. CHECKING IN AND MAKING THEIR WAY ON THE ICE TO ONE OF THE 300 PRE-DRILLED HOLES. ONCE THEY HAVE THEIR ROD OUT AND THEIR REEL IN THE WATER, IT'S JUST A MATTER OF TIME. BUT WITH 50000 dollars IN CASH AND PRIZES, THIS DERBY IS WORTH THE WAIT.

Clips show people sitting next to fishing holes and staff weighing fish caught by the participants.

Mitchell says IF THEY CATCH A FISH, THEIR OBJECTIVE IS TO KEEP IT ALIVE AND BRING IT TO THE CLOSEST WEIGH-IN STATION.

A voice says 3.2.

Mitchell continues YOU MIGHT NOT CATCH SOMETHING FOR A WHOLE DAY, BUT AT LEAST YOU'RE OUT THERE WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND TELLING, YOU KNOW, JOKES AND STORIES. YOU KNOW, IT'S JUST THAT CAMARADERIE OF BEING WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS.

Jeyan says EVEN THOUGH BOTH LAKES HAD COMPLETELY FROZEN OVER, BUILDING UP MORE THAN A FOOT OF ICE, THE TEMPERATURE THIS YEAR WAS NOTABLY WARMER.

Mitchell says OVER THE 12 YEARS, IT'S HARD TO PINPOINT THE EXACT DEPTH OF THE ICE. IT FLUCTUATES EVERY YEAR. OBVIOUSLY WE CAN NOTICE THE CHANGES DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE, RIGHT? SOME YEARS ARE WARMER. SOME YEARS ARE WAY COLDER. ONE YEAR IT COULD BE -40. ANOTHER YEAR, LIKE THIS YEAR, IT COULD GO UP TO 2 DEGREES.

Jeyan says THE ICE FISHING SEASON IN THE PROVINCE CAN RANGE FROM SEVERAL MONTHS IN THE NORTHERN REGIONS TO JUST A FEW WEEKS IN SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO. FOR ANGLERS IN MITCHELL'S BAY, THE SEASON IS LITERALLY A WASH. LOCATED ON THE EASTERN SHORE OF LAKE SINCLAIR, MITCHELL'S BAY HAS A POPULATION OF 200 AND WAS ONCE HOME TO TELEVISION HOST AND FISHING ICON RED FISHER.

A map shows the location of Mitchell's Bay, Chatham-Kent and Detroit.

Old grainy footage plays in which an elderly man steps out of a cabin facing the viewers and says HI, FRIENDS. GOOD TO HAVE YOU UP TO THE LODGE AGAIN. I'M RED FISHER HERE AND THIS IS SCUTTLEBUTT LODGE, THE TALL TALE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD.

A young man sits inside an empty restaurant and says MITCHELL'S BAY IS A ONE-ROAD VILLAGE, A DEAD-END ROAD THAT ENDS AT THE LAKE. AND THE LAKE IS WHAT BRINGS PEOPLE TO OUR COMMUNITY.

Jeyan says IT'S WHAT DREW JIM WILLIAMS AND HIS FAMILY TO THE AREA. HE GREW UP IN NEARBY CHATHAM-KENT AND HAS FOND MEMORIES OF MITCHELL'S BAY AS A CHILD.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Jim Williams. Parkside Restaurant and Cabins."

Jim says MY PARENTS HAD A WOODEN SHANTY THAT THEY WOULD PARK THE FIRST WEEK OF JANUARY OUT IN THE BAY. WE WOULD SNOWMOBILE TO IT ON THE WEEKENDS AND THERE WAS A POT BELLY WOOD STOVE IN THE SHANTY, AND MY MOM WOULD MAKE CHILI AT HOME AND WE WOULD SNOWMOBILE AS CHILDREN TO THE SHANTY. MY DAD WOULD CUT HOLES IN THE ICE FOR FISHING. WE WOULD STAY INSIDE THE SHANTY AND EAT CHILI. IT'S KIND OF A COMFORT MEMORY OF MINE, OF MY CHILDHOOD.

A family picture shows a young Jim sitting at a table with an elderly woman and a white-haired man.

Jeyan says IN 1996, HIS FATHER WOULD GO ON TO BUY THE LOCAL RESTAURANT IN MITCHELL'S BAY. JIM WOULD EVENTUALLY TAKE OVER AND NOW RUNS IT WITH HIS WIFE AND FOUR KIDS.

At the restaurant, Jim takes a call and says PARKSIDE.

Jeyan says BUSINESS HAS BEEN GOOD, PARTICULARLY IN THE SUMMER. BUT DURING THE WINTER, IT'S BEEN ANYONE'S GUESS.

Jim says IT'S BEEN A MILD WINTER. WE HAVE HAD SOME SNOWFALL. THE OLD CLICHE, THE ONLY CONSISTENT THING ABOUT OUR WEATHER HAS BEEN INCONSISTENCY.

Jeyan says IT'S RECOMMENDED THAT ICE COVER BE A MINIMUM OF FOUR INCHES FOR WALKING ON. THAT HAS NOT BEEN THE CASE FOR THE MAJORITY OF THE SEASON ON LAKE SINCLAIR.

Jim says THIS LAKE OFFERS OPPORTUNITIES UNLIKE ANY OF THE BIGGER GREAT LAKES... NOT THAT WE'RE A GREAT LAKE, BUT BECAUSE IT'S SHALLOW AND BECAUSE IT'S SMALL.

Another male voice says YEAH, THAT'S A NICE ONE.

Men hold small yellow fish.

Jeyan says IN THE WINTER, THESE WATERS ARE SWARMING WITH YELLOW PERCH.

Jim says 2014 WAS A REALLY GOOD YEAR FOR US AS FAR AS ICE CONDITIONS. 2017 WAS ANOTHER GOOD YEAR AS FAR AS ICE CONDITIONS. SO THE LAKE FROZE COMPLETELY OVER AND PROBABLY THE AVERAGE THICKNESS WAS 24 INCHES OR 2 FEET. SO ON A SATURDAY OR SUNDAY, I COULD ESTIMATE THAT THERE WOULD BE 500 VEHICLES HERE IN THE BAY WHERE BOTH PARKING LOTS AT THE END OF THE ROAD WERE FULL.

Jeyan says ALONG WITH THE RESTAURANT, JIM RENTS OUT THESE CABINS. DURING A GOOD WINTER, HE'S BOOKED SOLID.

Jim says I LOOK BACK AND I DIDN'T REALIZE THAT WE, YOU KNOW, RENTED THAT MANY CABINS OR THAT MANY ROOMS IN THOSE YEARS IN GOOD CONDITIONS, AND THIS YEAR VIRTUALLY NOTHING.

Now standing outdoors as it snows, Jim points and says
IF YOU LOOK WEST ON A CLEAR DAY, YOU CAN SEE THE SKYLINE OF DETROIT.

Jeyan says WITH ITS PROXIMITY TO THE U.S., MITCHELL'S BAY HAS HISTORICALLY BEEN A HOT SPOT FOR AMERICAN ANGLERS.

Jim says WE'RE SO CLOSE TO THE U.S. IT'S LITERALLY A HALF AN HOUR BOAT RIDE.

Jeyan says BUT ACCORDING TO JIM, THEY ARE NO LONGER COMING, AND IT'S A DIRECT RESULT OF INCONSISTENT ICE CONDITIONS.

Jim says SO WHAT'S HAPPENED IN THE TIME FROM 1996, '97 TO PRESENT, IS THE AVID FISHERMAN, THE AVID ICE ANGLER, BECAUSE OF THE INCONSISTENCY OF ICE CONDITIONS HERE, HAS SOUGHT OUT OTHER DESTINATIONS... LAKE SIMCOE, LAKE NIPISSING... PLACES WHERE THEY KNOW ON A YEAR-TO-YEAR BASIS THAT THEY'LL HAVE RELIABLE ICE CONDITIONS.

A woman says IT'S NOT JUST BAD FOR THE ECOSYSTEM, IT'S REALLY BAD FOR THE ECONOMY IN A WINTER LIKE THIS.

Jeyan says GAIL KRANTZBERG IS AN ENGINEERING AND PUBLIC POLICY PROFESSOR AT HAMILTON'S MCMASTER UNIVERSITY. SHE HAS WORKED FOR THE PROVINCE'S MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND WAS THE DIRECTOR OF THE GREAT LAKES REGIONAL OFFICE OF THE INTERNATIONAL JOINT COMMISSION.

In a clip, Gail stands inside a greenhouse and waters plants in pots.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Gail Krantzberg. McMaster University."

Gail says WHAT WE DON'T OFTEN THINK ABOUT IS THE RECREATIONAL ATTRIBUTES OF THE GREAT LAKES IN THE WINTER, AND THE SMALL VILLAGES AND TOWNS THAT HAVE BUILT A REPUTATION ON SNOWSHOEING, CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING, ICE FISH ON THE LAKES, AND IT'S A HUGE DRAW TO THE SMALL COMMUNITIES THAT HAVE THAT ABILITY TO HAVE A SMALL ABATEMENT AND HAVE THE ICE THERE. IN 2014, I THINK WE HAD ALMOST 90 PERCENT ICE COVER ACROSS ALL OF THE GREAT LAKES. AND NOW IN SOME AREAS, IT'S ICE-FREE. IN SOME AREAS, IT'S A FEW PERCENT.

A satellite image captioned "February 2014" appears showing the Great Lakes covered almost entirely by ice.
Then, a similar image from February 2020 shows that the ice cover is almost non-existent.

Jeyan says AS OF EARLY MARCH, LESS THAN 9 percent OF THE GREAT LAKES WERE COVERED IN ICE.

Gail says THE GLOBE IS WARMING, SO WE WILL WARM. BUT A CHANGE IN CLIMATE MEANS MORE EXTREME EVENTS IN OUR REGION. WE MAY HAVE MORE EXTREME COLD WINTERS, EXTREMELY WARM WINTERS.

Jeyan says FOR JIM'S BUSINESS, THIS WINTER REPRESENTS THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN LOST REVENUE. HE'S HOPEFUL THE SEASON CAN BE SALVAGED.

Jim says WE HAVE NO REASON TO BELIEVE THAT WE WILL GO BACK TO THE WAY IT WAS 30 YEARS AGO. SO I DON'T KNOW THAT MY CHILDREN WILL EVER EXPERIENCE WHAT I DID. WE HAVE TO ADAPT TO THE CHANGES THAT HAVE HAPPENED AND MOVE FORWARD WITH IT. AND IF WE CAN GO OUT FOR TWO HOURS AND ENJOY THE POP-UP SHANTY AND A LITTLE BIT OF FISHING AND COME IN, AT LEAST WE'RE STILL ABLE TO ENJOY THAT EXPERIENCE. AS LONG AS I CAN EXPOSE MY KIDS TO THAT OPPORTUNITY, THEN I THINK THAT'S A POSITIVE THING.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Ontario Hubs Field Producer, Jeyan Jeganathan; @JeyanTVO. Editor, David Erwin."

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: The Effects of No Ice on the Great Lakes