These February thaw days mess me up. I really start getting the itch for the open water season when we get a 40 degree type day with sunshine. I like to ice fish, but I love to fish the open water and be in the boat. In the late fall, just before ice, I start to look forward to ice fishing, especially the early ice bite. As we start to get to the end of the hard winter and we are well past the early ice bite, I get impatient for the open water.
This week will be the week of random considerations when it comes to ice fishing habits and tendencies. The first up for discussion is about what you do with harvested fish before cleaning them up for the table. Many will just throw the fish on the ice. If the temp is mild or you are in a portable with some heat, probably not a problem. You want to keep them from freezing before cleaning.
Welcome to February ice fishing. The days start to become noticeably longer, and the weather will start to be noticeably nicer. We will still have some brutal cold, but it never seems to last as long. This is when it can be fun to "bucket fish" on the ice. Even the days around zero degrees, but with no wind and sunshine, can be very comfortable on the ice outside the shelters. Kids love to fish, play, slide, eat, play, fish, and play some more when it gets nice to be outside on the ice!
We are at the time of the season when we say goodbye to the Vikes and the playoff run. By now everybody should be done grieving the difficult Viking loss to the Eagles with the chance to go to the Super Bowl we are hosting this year. It would have been awesome, but ... oh well. It was still a heck of a season and a very entertaining team to follow. The benefit now is the chance to spend time on the ice chasing dinner or fun, instead of sitting on the couch on Super Bowl Sunday.
I always suggest when you travel on the lakes you should have a shovel, tow rope, and your cell phone. I always recommend having your warm weather gear along as well. It is easy to blow these things off when you can drive out to your fish house. It is easy traveling now on area lakes with the wind-polished and packed snow on the lakes, and this is the time when it is easy to slip up with good ice safety traveling practices.
As you can see by the number of ice houses out on area lakes, as well as the many portables, a significant growth in the sport of ice angling is taking place. All the new innovations in winter clothing, gear, equipment, augers, electronics, permanent houses, and portables, it is easier and more comfortable than ever to get into this activity or upgrade for comfort and ease. These innovations have grown the sport, and as the sport grows, more new and cool stuff makes its way into the ice fishing market.
The polar vortex that has kept us in this major cold front the last 10 days is finally moving on. The benefit has been the additional ice thickness added to area lakes. Most lakes range from 18-24 inches now, and ice is continuing to build. These thicknesses, along with manageable snow levels, make vehicle, sled, or wheeler travel available. You can get to almost any area you would like to travel to right now.
The huge benefit of this severe cold front right before the new year is the improvement to the ice conditions in our area. When we have multiple days below zero and excessive below zero overnight lows, we will make an inch or more of ice every 24 hours.
The electronics for ice fishing, particularly flashers, graphs, and GPS mapping have continued to improve, and thus improved anglers understanding of location and fish behavior. The modern flasher can not only identify depth, but based on the signal, help interpret bottom content and locate fish in the water column. The sensitivity of these units will not only signal fish, but you can see your lure in relation to the bottom and fish. Learning how to make adjustments to your unit will help you adapt to maximize your unit for varying situations.
This last week has been good for the ice development in our area. The consistent cold with some very cold nights helps build back some of the ice that was lost, or was slow to develop with our goofy weather for the few previous weeks.