The Susquehanna Hose Company launches Air Boat 5, the only rescue vessel on the Bay capable of accessing the shallowest parts of the Susquehanna Flats. Photo: Water Witch Volunteer Fire Company

Hunters Stranded in Icy Susquehanna Flats Prompt Safety Warning

This time of year, many waterfowl hunters pride themselves on getting out on the water in weather most boaters would find intolerable.

When the air and water temperatures are both below freezing and you’re in a jon boat, there’s little room for things to go wrong. This weekend on the Susquehanna Flats, where the Susquehanna River meets the Bay in Havre de Grace, a group of hunters got lucky.

The Susquehanna Hose Company says a report came in Saturday of a vessel stuck in the ice with several people stranded. The emergency triggered responses from multiple volunteer fire/rescue squads.

On Saturday in the upper Bay area, the air temperature was 24 degrees with winds over 20 miles per hour. The water temperature was hovering right around freezing with some ice forming.

The Susquehanna Hose Company launched its air boat, used to reach stranded boaters in the shallows of the Flats, and the Water Witch Volunteer Fire Company also responded with a rescue boat.

Thankfully, the hunters were rescued by friends before the emergency responders reached them, according to Water Witch VFD, and escaped serious injury.

A veteran upper Bay volunteer rescue boat operator (who is not affiliated with the Susquehanna Hose or Water Witch companies) voiced frustration at the risks involved with venturing out on the water in such conditions.

“On the upper Bay our most challenging rescues are at this time of the year because of weather and tidal conditions,” he tells Chesapeake Bay Magazine. The difference is in the summer when it is 72 degrees with winds at 25knots, 80% humidity and the water is 72 degrees, you can survive most incidents.”

He points to mobile platforms as good resources to check real-time weather and tidal conditions, and groups on social media where people along the water are giving real-time updates.

“be aware of your boat’s mechanical condition; cold weather is especially hard on boat systems,” the emergency responder points out, “and just use plain common sense.”