GILFORD — In the wake of a “skimming” accident in Weirs Beach this weekend, state officials are warning snowmobile and ATV riders who like to ride their machines over pockets of open water on state lakes that they are breaking the law, and that they are risking their lives.
People have drowned while skimming in past years, especially in February and March, when the skimming tends to grow in popularity.
“We’ve had to pull bodies out of the water of people who thought they were just having some fun,” said Sgt. Brad Morse, a Fish and Game conservation officer.
Skimmers actually take their chances with the activity all winter long, he said.
“We get a few every weekend,” he said. “We had a bunch out at Governor’s Island during the fishing derby (last month), and we even had a few last weekend at the Mosquito Bridge (in Belmont).”
The activity tends to grow in February and March, when warm spells of even one day will open up holes in the ice. Some snowmobilers enjoy getting up speed and crossing the open water, hoping to get to ice on the other side.
“The problem gets to be that one person sees someone getting across the water, and they think it’s safe,” he said.
On Sunday, Laconia fire officials say an all-terrain vehicle rider tried to skim in about eight feet of water off Weirs Beach but sank. The operator reportedly hitched a ride away from the scene on another ATV.
Fire Capt. Robert Landry said his department received a call about 12:50 a.m. Sunday from a person on shore who saw something unusual on the lake. Rescue crews responded and found that the ATV had sunk in about eight feet of water.
Laconia Cold Water Rescue Team members searched the water for anyone who might have ended up in the water but no one was found.
“It happens all winter, it just seems to happen more in these months,” Morse said.
“It’s a very, very dangerous activity.”