A fishing season on thin ice
Paula and I have lived up here in the North Country for nearly 16 years now. How far north? Well, half the radio stations are in French, when the Montreal Expos were in existence I could be in a box seat within two hours, and none of our family members even consider visiting between November and the end of April.
So we're used to "real" winters up here. But things have changed – a lot – since we made the move up here in 1997. I have the ice fishing gear collecting dust right now to attest to that.
Call it global warming, climate change, whatever, but ice fishermen have a pretty firm grasp on the situation. Right now the hard water crowd is pretty much resigned to pacing back and forth, checking The Weather Channel every 10 minutes and then wondering if it might be time to put their gear up for sale in the classifieds of the local paper.
It's been that frustrating, particularly last year when the season arrived late and offered limited options. Things could be better this winter, but usually by now – at least when we first relocated here – I'd be on Lake Champlain's Bulwagga Bay, happily pulling perch through the hole between Christmas and New Year's Day.
A decade or so ago, I was actually fishing Connery Pond outside Lake Placid on Dec. 8, catching splake and perch on ice that wasn't just safe, but thick enough to give me a workout with the auger. Back then, by late December and early January you could pretty much fish whatever water you wanted, on ice thick enough you could usually drive your truck out onto it. I can't remember the last time I did that; it might have been the year Lake George froze end-to-end. These days, ice anglers are just happy to see some of the tucked-away bays lock up to allow fishing.
The long-term forecast is looking better than last year, at least, but the hard water fraternity up here is still getting pretty antsy. Whether that becomes the new normal remains to be seen, but things sure have changed over the past decade or so. I'm not sure what the answer is, but we don't plan on moving further north.