For the second time in twenty years, the Great Lakes are 70 percent covered in ice, which means efforts to keep marine routes clear are in high gear.

Georgian Bay is already 90 percent covered and Environment Canada says the ice is spreading.

“Across the Great Lakes, in general, we have 52 to 53 percent ice coverage. Normal ice coverage for this time of year, mid-February, should be about 30 percent,” says Environment Canada meteorologist Geoff Coulson.

The ice is making life difficult for Captain Mike Cass who steers the MV Indian Maiden, the passenger ferry that runs between Christian Island and Ceder Point, year-round. He says the ice that floats in the channel can normally blow out into Georgian Bay, but this year the entire lake is freezing over.

“We are able to do some cuts to let the ice flow out but now it’s locked in between the islands and the lighthouse,” he says.

The actual thickness of the ice varies greatly from one location to another. Ice fishers in the Midland area report 30 cms or more.

“Pretty thick ice,” says ice fisherman Duncan Verburgh. “It hasn’t made any weird sounds or anything. It seemed pretty thick. When I drilled my hole it took quite a bit to get through.”

But the ice in the channel between Christian Island and the mainland is thin and of poor quality. 

“It’s unpredictable from spot to spot,” says Captain Cass.

The last time there was this much ice on the Great Lakes was the winter of 2013/2014.

Environment Canada says peak ice cover normally occurs in early March, and if the great lakes do freeze it can reduce the amount of lake effect snow in the region.