Ice fishing on Lake Erie a go
Put-In-Bay, Ohio — For the first time in three seasons, there has been enough ice for anglers to get on it, from both the mainland at Catawba State Park and between the islands. Currents have kept the South Passage thinner between Mouse and South Bass islands and high river flows have kept ice from forming near the Maumee River plume.
The ice formed and quickly thickened after northwest Ohio endured subfreezing high temperatures and single-digit to minus-teen overnight lows between Dec. 30 and Jan. 9. Toledo’s coldest low of -15F was recorded on the morning of Jan. 7, according to Accuweather.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported at one point that the Great Lakes ice cover was the heaviest in 20 years. There was about 90% ice coverage on Lake Erie and the other Lakes averaged closer to about 1/3 ice covered. This will help seal the Lakes from as much evaporation, maintain higher water levels, and reduce “lake effect” snowfalls downwind of the Lakes.
TV meteorologists blamed the extra cold weather on a polar vortex, or arctic low, where the jet stream dipping southward carried cold air from the Arctic Circle over top of the Midwest region. Other parts of the world benefited from the warmer temperatures displaced by this jet stream trajectory.
Coincidentally, there also appears to be some fish waiting underneath the new ice, with catches occurring both off the mainland and around the islands. A mixed bag of yellow perch, white bass, white perch, and walleyes have been taken so far by groups on foot, snowmobiles, and airboats.
Walleyes have been ranging from less than 15-inch throwbacks from the 2011 hatch to over 30-inch trophies. Walleyes under the 15-inch minimum legal size limit are required by law to be released.
Islanders fishing between Green Island and South Bass seem to be doing the best on walleyes, with yellow perch catches occurring between Rattlesnake and South Bass, according to one Put-in-Bay resident.
Much of the activity off Catawba State Park has been centered northwest of the cliffs, with catches ranging from zero to limits. By the weekend of January 11-12, activity slowed, with fewer fish being caught and many electing to stay off the ice, weakened somewhat by five days of temperatures above freezing that began January 10th and extended through January 14.
Ice-fishing activity has fully resumed and the Accuweather forecast for the rest of the month looks promising, with highs in the 20s and low 30s predicted.
But, in another development, contractors working on a 3.5 million dollar Put-in-Bay public dock renovation project filed a notice with the U.S. Coast Guard that requests icebreaking to bring over new crib docks stacked on the Miller Ferry Catawba dock.
This created quite a buzz with ice fishermen on the islands and mainland, who were concerned about the damage that this operation would cause to the ice. After two winters without ice, they are understandably upset that anyone would be so inconsiderate of their safety and willing to disrupt their primary means of winter recreation.
The plan was for the barge to follow an icebreaking tug from Catawba to South Bass by going in-between Ballast and Buckeye islands, then into downtown Put-in-Bay.
As of press time, the operation was postponed, perhaps in part due to the objections of the ice-fishing community. A “Plan B” was to postpone the transport until it is possible to haul the docks over the ice, which is expected to further thicken with projected lows in the minus-zero and single digits again during the week of January 20-24.
The next issue of Ohio Outdoor News will have a follow-up story that will report on the outcome of these trips and an ice update.