Mid-Michigan pilot takes flight to video changing ice conditions on Saginaw Bay

BAY CITY (WJRT) (2/20/2020) - A Mid-Michigan pilot uses his spare time to take a plane to the sky and take video of ice coverage on Saginaw Bay and relays that video to area ice fishermen.

Martin Szeliga, who runs the Facebook page "Airborne Angler" has been taking the plane up for a few years. He said the inspiration behind doing this is to help ice fishermen stay safe.

"I'm fortunate enough to be able to fly and it's beautiful up there to look at that stuff," he said. "I don't mind taking a few pictures and sharing with people. Basically I would love if we got through winter with no injuries on the ice."

Szeliga takes pictures of different access points for fishermen to relay where the ice is.

"Well, I want to go fishing and I would love to let people know that it looks good for fishing," he said. "Unfortunately, when it doesn't, I also want to let them know that because I won't be going out there and I don't think that's information I can just keep to myself."

On Thursday, Szeliga flew from James Clements Municipal Airport in Bay City to the tip of Thumb and then across Saginaw Bay. He then flew southward along the shoreline back to Bay City.

"The east side of the bay, which is shallower, tends to freeze sooner so that looked like it had more ice coverage," he said. "I can't say it's thick. But on the west side, it looks extremely dangerous right now because there's the old shore ice, a wide open band of water from all the way north to south that borders the shore ice and then a bit of skim ice beyond that."

Szeliga said that this band of open water can be dangerous for ice fishermen and for people who ride snowmobiles on the ice.

Along the shorelines, there were pockets of open water near mouths of rivers, which can be especially dangerous for snowmobilers.

Szeliga said that this season has been one of the most challenging he has seen because the ice coverage has been so inconsistent.

"We've had worse seasons where it's just there's no ice but that almost makes it easier to stay off," he said. "This one has been really challenging because it gets extremely close and then either the wind tears it up or the warm weather does."

Szeliga said he hopes that his videos help people make smart decisions before venturing on to the ice.

"I don't make go, no-go decisions for people," he said. "Like I've said before, it's difficult for me to tell how thick the ice is but when I see open water, I definitely want to post that so people can get a good idea of what's going on out there."

As of Wednesday, total ice coverage on the Great Lakes was only 15.5 percent.