Gord Leishman has been ice fishing all his adult life, so it shocked him how fast the ice broke beneath his feet and he was over his head in frigid water this week.
Leishman lives in Rutland but on Wednesday he chose Swan Lake, north of Vernon, for a morning of fishing.
“I don’t remember touching the bottom,” he said Thursday, even though Swan Lake is shallow.
There had been several other men already on the ice when he arrived. “One guy didn’t have an auger [to drill through the ice] so he used mine. It looked like four or five inches of ice.”
Leishman chatted for a bit then went further along the shore to where another fisher had set up.
“I drilled my two holes and was going to walk out and talk to him. It happened in a second, I was 30 or 40 yards from shore.”
He remembers that one man in particular who was close. But he knew he had to be careful so kept his distance.
“I worked my way toward him. He told me to kick my legs up to the top of the ice. Then he just reached out and hauled me right out of there.”
Each man headed to his own truck to get warm. “I just had to get home to warm up. He watched to make sure I got my truck moving.”
Leishman did more homework about ice fishing safety after he had fallen in. “It says you should have three solid weeks of daytime temperatures -8 C or colder. Even though we’ve had a cold snap, I don’t think we’ve had three solid weeks of that.”
In retrospect he knows there were signs he should have paid attention to.
“The area of ice I was walking over had kind of an opaque look to it. I should have picked up on it. That’s a warning sign that it’s weak ice. Ice should be clear or bluish colour — it shouldn’t be that kind of milky colour.”
It wasn’t until he was home with his wife and warm that the gratitude swept over him.
There was no time to say thanks, no time to take names. Leishman’s saviour drove a blue Ford.
“I just want to say thank you very much and Merry Christmas to him and his family. He put himself at risk to help me. He did a very Christian thing. I just want to thank him for that.”