Thursday, February 16, 2012

Late Season Ice

It is a sad week here in Central Iowa, as the ice is disappearing quickly.  It has been melting for quite some time actually, but the ice fishing season is coming to a close for us. 
                It is without a doubt, that I have not seen a winter like this for at least 10 years.  The past two winter seasons have provided safe ice all the way into March.  As I look at the extended forecast, I can only assume that I will be in my boat on area lakes the first part of March.  It has been a good ice fishing season for me and my friends, as we made it out every weekend after January 1st.  The water froze late this year, and never reached ten inches on area lakes.  Normally this time of year we would be drilling through 15 or more inches of ice.  I am just hoping to see four or five inches of ice this weekend to give it one more try. 
                Late season ice is never the best ice; first ice is always the best, as it is new and solid.  A lot of anglers in the area have only fished a few times this winter and have put all their ice fishing gear away.  I don’t blame them one bit.  I have been frustrated with the ice conditions all year long.  I guess Mother Nature really put it to us this year, but the last two winters have been long for ice fishing.  Either way, if you are still looking for ice this weekend in the area, you must use extreme caution.
                Caution is always taken early in the ice season, but as the season goes on, many people tend to forget those safety precautions.  My group of friends have not gone on the ice one time this year without all of our safety gear.  I can’t remember any winter like that, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.  Once again this weekend, all the safety gear will be with us, and at the ready if needed.  Hickory Grove has had good ice the longest of any area lake, and in parts of the lake the ice is still pretty good.  However, as with Hickory Grove, and any body of water/ice this time of year, the depths of ice can very A  LOT.  You must use a lot of caution as the ice has been shrinking and is becoming unsafe in many ponds and lakes in the area.
                It is always very tempting to “try one more time” at the end of ice season, however, I’ve grown past that.  I always plan one last trip, and then put everything away, this weekend is that time.  Am I guaranteed good ice…no, will I take every precaution for safety, yes.  I look forward to one last time on the ice this year with friends, but it is always bittersweet.  On one hand the ice season is gone…well at least for another nine months, but on the other hand the area lakes will be opening up and ready for shore angling or getting the boat out soon.
                I guess looking back on the ice fishing season I made it to a lot of different bodies of water, which is always fun.  I was able to fish a new farm pond and caught some really nice crappies and bluegills out of.  I had several great days on Hickory Grove catching bluegills, and made a trip up north to Clear Lake to catch dozens of yellow bass too.  I also had a blast catching largemouth bass this winter, by far the best winter I have ever had for catching bass.  It sure is fun to catch a two-pound bass on pole that is sixteen inches long!  Each winter I always look forward to competing in ice fishing tournaments too, but this year both events that I was going to fish have gotten canceled due to the bad ice conditions.  I guess I will be more eager to fish in them again next year.  
                Ice fishing isn’t all about finding and catching fish, it has deeper roots for me too.  Going out on the ice with friends and family to see if you can trick some fish into biting has been my Outdoor Ambition for over two decades now.  This year I was able to ice fish with many friends; Brian, David, Peter, Don, Chad, Mark and my son Ranger also.  In all my adventures on the ice this year, most days were fantastic with the way the fish cooperated, and there were a couple days where getting bites were tough or even rare, however having friends to joke and talk with always made the time fly by quickly.  I was once told by an old friend of mine that the hours a person spends fishing doesn’t count toward their lifespan, I sure hope that is true!
                As spring is around the corner, I guess I have to say good-bye to the ice, although it is about a month too early.  Maybe, just maybe it will warm up quickly and I can get the boat out very soon.  Ok, fine, I admit it, I’m addicted to fishing!

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