A portion of Maryland's winter oyster harvesting fleet has been locked in ice on Maryland's Eastern Shore as Maryland's ice breaking boats work to clear the way back to open water.

“Oh she could sink,” said waterman Jason Bartholomew as he worked to keep heat lamps thawing water in his bilge to prevent ice from jamming the pumps that keep his work boat floating.

Bartholomew's boat, and nearly 100 others are locked in about two inches of ice that has formed at a wharf in the Kent Narrows.

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Frozen bilge pumps and cracked hulls are two potential threats.

Maryland allows wild-harvest of oysters during the cold weather months of October through March.

Ice locked boats mean empty baskets on boat decks and emptier wallets in watermans' pockets.

Maryland's department of Natural Resources is operating three ice breaking vessels, but the work is slow and painstaking. Ice breakers were working Wednesday near the Kent Narrows, Annapolis and Smith Island.

The US Coast Guard was conducting ice breaking operations Wednesday to clear the way to Virginia's Tangier Island.