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December 17, 2012 Comments (0) Fishing Notebook

Where is the ice?

By Steve Weisman
Outdoor Editor

If you haven’t had the chance to do so, take a leisurely drive around our Iowa Great Lakes. Oh for the geese, and I do mean geese. Canada geese seem to be everywhere. Living on the east side of Big Spirit, I have the opportunity witness this daily. For a while, the Canada geese stretched from Big Stony all the way to Reed’s Run. What a spectacle to see them glide in flock after flock after flock to join the welcoming Canadas already on the water. Then once, sometimes twice a day, they would lift off, flock after flock, barely clearing the trees as they headed east to feed.

Now for the past week or so, they have moved off of Cottonwood on the north side and along the swimming beach area at the northwest corner. Oh, but there are so many more, as migrators have continued to join the crowd. I’d say several thousand geese are jam-packed into the area.

If you want to watch the spectacle, just head for the swimming beach area (of course, on a whim, they can up and move to another part of the lake). The sights and sounds are awesome!

Another great place that my wife and I have gone just to sit and watch them come and go is in Smith’s Bay on West Okoboji. The parking lot for the swimming beach is a great place to sit and snap a few photos. Often times, huge waves of geese come from the west and land with those already on the water.

As for the hunters, Canada goose season is open in this area until January 4, 2013. However, it’s all about scouting and field hunting this time of year.

Photo by Steve Weisman – Canada geese continue their migration through the Iowa Great Lakes area. Smith’s Bay is one of their favorite spots.

 

Where’s the ice????

Certainly not here! At least, not what I would consider good ice. Every year is a little different when it comes to ice fishermen getting on the ice. This year it’s really come slowly. Normally by mid-December, we are ice fishing for sure. With no snow cover and a jet stream ushering in warmer than normal temperatures, the weather conditions are more like early spring than early winter!

The trouble is there’s just enough ice at the Grade and in Anglers and Upper Gar that it’s tempting. And I know that some people have actually been trying it and catching some fish. And they have not fallen through. I hear everything from 3 inches to 2 inches to almost 2 inches. For me, it’s pretty scary, because if I were to fall through, I know I would make a good anchor!

Yes, it’s tempting, but remember this: not all ice is created equal! Ice doesn’t freeze uniformly. It might be six inches in one area and only two inches a few yards away.

Ice authorities (if there is such a thing) recommend a minimum of four inches of new clear ice for ice fishing. Five inches is recommended for a snowmobile or ATV, 8-12 inches for a car or small pickup and 12-15 inches for a medium to large size pickup.

As a rule, newly formed clear ice is stronger than late season ice.

What we need

To make really good ice, we need to have several days of sub-freezing weather. Add to that a period of little to no wind, and good ice will be forming. Shoreline vegetation and bunches of cattails can slow the freezing process and keep the ice thinner. Of course, a snow pack acts as an insulator and will deter making good ice even in sub-freezing conditions.

Rain like we had this past weekend certainly doesn’t do the ice a favor.  Now we have received an inch of snow that is covering the lakes, except for West Okoboji. That makes things even more difficult.

When you do venture out on the ice, check its depth as you venture out. I am not the brave kind, so I don’t like to be the first person on the ice. If I do have any concerns, I will drill holes or use a spud bar to spud holes to see what the ice is like. I do stay away from points and vegetation. A buddy system is not a bad idea either. A life jacket, safety spikes and a 50-foot length of rope are all good ideas for early ice.

It’s all about common sense. Good ice will come sooner or later. Until it does, we just need to keep things in perspective and show patience – the same patience we try to teach our kids and grandkids…but it’s so hard!

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