Friday, February 10, 2012

Lost Winter

It may be hard for someone who does not ice fish to comprehend just how frustrating this winter has been for those of us who were chomping at the bit waiting for it. There are not many fishing seasons that get virtually skipped over certain years because of weather, but hardwater is one of them and it's happening again this winter. I am thankful for things that I can blindly count on throughout the year, such as striped bass chasing river herring or trout rising to may flies, but targeting northern pike and walleye through the ice in Connecticut is not one of them.

October's mega snow storm had me excited for another impressive showing by Mother Nature this winter and perhaps an early start to our ice season. Instead the last few months have been a constant tug of war between warm and cold, with one never outright beating the other. Our local ice fishing options have been severely limited since. Many of my favorite bodies of water were good to go for a few days or right on the cusp before rain and warm temps rendered them shady at best.   

This ice was FUBAR.

So things have been rather depressing lately for hardcore ice anglers. There are a handful of shallow lakes in high elevations that I can burn $30 worth of gas driving to, and I have done just that a half dozen times already, but most of our bigger lakes don't stand a chance now. The days are growing longer and the sun is getting stronger. The deep freeze this weekend will help, but next week brings more mild temperatures and rain. That's the hand we've been dealt.    

But it is not only the ice anglers who are missing out. How about all the small businesses that are sitting on bait and hardwater inventory? Expect some ice fishing sales coming soon. For me the breaking point was the 60-degree day on February 1. To add insult to injury, just two days later a chubby rodent in Pennsylvania claimed there will be six more weeks of winter. I'm not buying what you're selling, Phil!

This ice was better.

And this was safer than it looks...

It's not just Connecticut anglers experiencing this winter hiatus; it's the same story all over New England. Our neighbors in Rhode Island haven't had a decent patch of safe ice all season. The anglers to our north have fared a little better in regards to ice opportunities, but it's no picnic up there either. The annual ice fishing derby that I fish on Maine's Sebago Lake every February was canceled and there are currently white caps where there should be two feet of ice.

Like anything else, it's what you make of it. If the ice doesn't come to you, you have to go it. Plenty of dyed-in-the-wool ice fishermen are heading north and west to find quality frozen waters. Lots of my fishing buddies have been hoofing it to the Berkshires or Adirondacks. I have a trip to Maine in the works for the first weekend of March to fish the annual Statewide Derby with old friends. There is a $100,000 bounty on the 54-year-old state record lake trout, but it will take an old togue of nearly 32-pounds to best it! 

Nevertheless, a short season of plan B ice outings is still beats not getting on the ice at all. I turned down some prime winter fly fishing for trout last weekend to catch a handful of eight-inch smelt through the ice. But, hey, I I was ice fishing, and pretty soon it will be another nine months before I can do that again; maybe. 

Photo credit: Aaron Swanson

Photo credit: Aaron Swanson


  1. K, while the hard water season seems to be a bust, us small stream anglers have had it good.
    I wish you luck in Maine, Sebago Lake? And that record laker I think will stand for a ahile.

  2. Ah, Keek, as much as I'm enjoying this warm winter (no extra snow days to make up in June), I feel for you, knowing how much you love hard water. By the way, no keepers among the smelt?

  3. Dewar's, Guinness AND Johnnie Walker?

  4. I didn't realize you were Scottish K. We really should go a carpin' together :-)

  5. Brk Trt: I am hoping for one last cold shot to put enough on Sebago, but it seems like a pipe dream. We'll be fishing somewhere up there though.

  6. Jan: I only caught about 10 smelt. Not quite enough for a meal, but they will serve as great bait for bigger fish.

  7. Jonny: Scottish with an Irish first name. We SHOULD drink and fish together.