Ice Eaters

by Jeff Goldberg

This article is about an area that has become a passion of mine. I have had contact in and around the body of water known as Lake George all of my 50 years. There have been many changes, some good, and some not so much. This article is about an area that has not changed for the better. We do, however, have the opportunity to correct and improve what is happening.

This article is about how fish spawning habitats have been negatively impacted by human intervention in the pursuit of protecting properties. During the winter, my favorite time of year, most home owners with docks put ice eaters in the water to keep the water moving in order to keep the ice from damaging their docks. This is a good idea, as docks are very expensive to build and repair. These ice eaters, if improperly used, which most are, create a huge swath of open water which allows light to penetrate to the bottom. (These notes are strictly layman observations, not scientific studies; but with 50 years of observation, I feel there is some merit to them.) The docks with this light penetration seem to grow a black algae, which I will call slime, all over all of the rocks and the dock itself. These areas used to be great habitat for the bass to spawn. In those places, where the slime grows, the bass do not spawn. If you observe closely, you will see that not much of anything lives around those areas with heavy slime. What exactly is this algae?

“Algae belong to a large group of organisms called eukaryotes – a Latin word meaning “true nucleus.” They store their genetic material in a tiny membrane-bound structure called a nucleus. Algae are divided into groups that reflect the color most commonly exhibited by members; although, not all will be the definitive color. For example, most green algae are green; but some are brown, red, orange, or yellow. Although there are many types of algae, only some groups are important in terms of the impact they can have on freshwater supplies. Algae occur naturally in surface waters. Although their size is usually microscopic, when conditions are ideal, they can undergo a phenomenon known as bloom. This results when the algae reproduce rapidly and the individuals form clumps visible to the naked eye. Heavy blooms can overtake water bodies and even choke out portions of streams or rivers. It is difficult to predict when a bloom will occur. However, all blooms require light, nutrients, and oxygen. “(Agriculture and Agri-food Canada}.” They have to find other areas, not always as good, to make their beds and reproduce. The slime also makes swimming distasteful. When I was a kid we never needed water shoes anywhere I could remember. Today, I wouldn’t go near most docks without them. The point here is that, what is no good for the fish is no good for humans.

Ice eaters have some other inherent negatives. If they are turned on and run 24/7 as many are, they cost between $40 and $60 a month to run. Not very GREEN!! Many people use more than one. They should be set up on timers and run a few hours a day in the morning and then in the evening. The idea of an ice eater or any product used to keep ice away from a dock in the winter is to prevent the ice from crushing the dock when the ice is forming, and to keep it from being damaged when it rises and falls. When used correctly, the ice should only be kept away from the dock, not the shoreline. When the ice is kept from forming along the shoreline, two things happen; slime and ice islands. When the ice begins to move in the spring, when most damage occurs, there is nothing in this world that is going to stop it. Secondly, when that island hits a dock, it does damage, it is usually expensive and time consuming for the owner.

There is an alternative to ice eaters that is GREENER, which will create less habitat for algae to grow; thereby making our beautiful lake more fun to fish and swim in and will do a better job protecting our docks. It is a new twist on an old bubbler system. Many people use the term “bubbler” when speaking of ice eaters. There are different ways of getting to the same end. A bubbler is a quiet efficient air pump that pushes air through special tubing which keeps the ice from forming. Many people stopped using them years ago because they were not dependable. The new systems on the market today are quiet, dependable, and energy efficient, $7 to $10 per month to run. This is where an old idea becomes new again with upgraded technology. All Dock Bubbler Systems feature quiet running air pumps with a weather resistant aluminum housing that enables better ventilation and easy maintenance.

I love this lake. It is where I live and where I brought up my family. I want it to be available to everybody, as it should be, all year. I want it to be safe and clean. I WANT THE FISH TO THRIVE. I want it to be here for my children and grandchildren.

Let’s improve the lake water quality and halt the use of ice eaters for human safety and an improved fish habitat. Start using bubblers again.


Some information provided by Frank DiNardo from Elite Dock Builders