Friday, January 13, 2023

The Waiting

The late, great Tom Petty said it best: "the waiting is the hardest part." That's how I and many other ice fishermen feel this winter staring at forecasts and hoping something will change. The issue is not just in Connecticut; since the New Year, large swaths of the Northeast and Midwest are experiencing a lengthy period of above normal temperatures. January thaws are nothing new, but it's hard to remember a sustained stretch of winter warmth like the one we're experiencing now.

I enjoy learning about weather, yet I don't pretend to fully understand all of the reasons causing this particular pattern that we're stuck in. Like the complex Pacific jet and the North American ridge that have been blocking the deep cold air bottled-up in the Arctic. Aside from the elephant in the room that is climate change, there are a lot of moving parts. 

Winter is far from over and we are due for a strong cold spell. However, the days are getting longer and the sun is getting stronger. Ice fishing seasons are always on barrowed time, but this winter, more than most, that seems to be true. We only have a few more weeks to turn the bus around. 

My friend Jeff landed this northern pike on the lone flag of our short-lived ice season

It's crazy how we got here. Only a few weeks ago, right around Christmas, I thought we were off to a banner start to the ice season. A string of frigid days and nights locked up ponds and even some larger lakes in northern Connecticut, enough for eager anglers to squeeze in a few days of ice fishing. My buddy Jeff and I were fortunate to get out one of those days. We fished on three-inches of strong, clear ice. Optimism was high for some classic 'first ice' action. That was not to be. While we were both more than happy to be out there, Jeff got the only flag of the trip and made it count with a feisty northern pike that we watched battle its way to the hole under our feet. 

Things went to crap pretty quickly in the days after that. I went on a family trip to the Catskills for New Year's Weekend—not a lick of snow to be seen. By the time I got back, any ice we once had wasn't strong enough to fish on any more. The real kicker though was having to nix my bucket list birthday trip to the shores of Lake Michigan. For years, a friend and I have been talking about pulling the trigger on hiring a guide to put us on the world-class giant trout fishery in Milwaukee Harbor. Southeastern Wisconsin had early ice around the same time Connecticut did, but the warm stretch during the first two weeks of January killed it. Just today I had to cancel my hotel and flights. Woof. 

God willing I get another crack at that Milwaukee trip in the future. In the meantime, I have my fingers and toes crossed in hopes of a local cold snap that makes just enough ice for us to scratch our hardwater itch. All I'm asking for is the chance to jig up a few trout and chase a few pike flags. We've waited long enough. 

Tight lines and be safe out there. 

Dogs on ice. Mustard only.

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