We’re now in mid-February and instead going ice fishing I’ve been getting my maple syrup-making gear together. Why? Because other than a snowstorm the weather forecast for the days ahead calls for daytime temperatures to climb into the 40s and then cool down into the 20s at night. Perfect for maple sap to run, not so good for ice fishing.
Sure, where there’s significant ice established, say six inches or more, the ice is more likely to withstand the ebbs and flows of this March-like weather we’ve been experiencing. But for how long? And on bigger lakes, where just the bays may be frozen, one can never tell. And you have to remember that with each passing day the sun gets higher, warmer and shines longer. Eventually, it will have an impact.
It is these situations that scare the heck out of me. Last week I was keeping tabs on a popular web forum centered around ice fishing where the debate turned to whether it was worth it or not to venture out on a few inches of newly-formed ice in order to catch one’s daily limit of yellow perch.
The less-adventurous, so to speak, varied in their opinions. Some stated that they just weren’t comfortable with the conditions and the weather pattern. Others openly criticized the more courageous anglers for taking such a risk.
In contrast, one angler who’d been getting his daily limit of perch wondered why anyone cared what he did. Yet another said he liked the peace and quiet and less competition from other anglers. It almost seemed like those who had been out fishing were daring others to do the same. They began to sound like kids on a playground.
Like any outdoor passion, the addiction to ice fishing is understandable. And this is one of those years where anglers in New York have had to wait to enjoy that passion. Plus, we all know that early ice can be an extremely productive time to fish. Therefore, when the opportunity comes, any opportunity, anglers pounce. Some with vigor, others with caution.
My biggest beef with those who push the ice thickness envelope is not their lack of concern for their own safety, it is that of their would-be rescuers. It’s one thing to endanger your own life, it’s another to put those who would potentially come to your aid in the same danger. Human nature dictates one to help their fellow man, and that is something that has resulted in lives lost in many situations, including on the ice.
Think about first responders and their families. Think about nearby witnesses to your mishap who may not be prepared to help, but will try to, only to perhaps find themselves in the same situation you are in. It happens, and the results can be tragic.
There’s no telling if this weather pattern will hold. In fact, I’ve got a feeling we’re going to pay for it with some January-type weather towards the end of the winter season; just about the time we’re thinking of spring chores. That remains to be seen.
Believe me, I’d like to be spending more time on the ice this winter myself. But given the conditions and the forecast, I’m more than willing to settle for a few batches of early-season maple syrup rather than a fish fry.