Warmer weather kept many ice fishers at home this winter


SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Warmer weather meant fewer fishermen out on the ice this winter, Johnson County conservationists say.

"The number [of fish] depends on the sheer amount of time you get out there, and if the opportunities don't exist, then you have fewer fish." said Brad Freidhof, a Johnson County naturalist. "There were only few weekends they could get out there. It was definitely a downer for anglers."

Johnson County's bodies of water barely developed safe ice conditions for anglers because of the dearth of freezing temperatures, he said. Ice must be 4 inches deep to hold a person, and there were only a few weeks where the ice reached 6 to 7 inches.

"The hardest part with this year's weather was that we never had any sustained, ice-cold weather," said Freidhof, an angler himself. "I went out only a few times but had to carefully pick my way and judge the structure of the ice."

Iowa City had 70 days above freezing from December 2011 to Feb. 27, while last year there were only just 29 in that span, said Tom Gross, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

Mark Bentley, a fishing-department manager at Scheels in Coralville, said the "non-fishable" ice significantly decreased sales on ice-fishing equipment.

"It's been very tough," Bentley said, who normally sells a lot of power augers, hand augers, and ice flashers during the winter. "We're hoping that if we push an early spring and things are progressed warm-water-wise, we make up for that fact that we had a shortened ice period."

Bentley said he spoke with many local long-time residents who said this could go down as one of the three warmest winters of all time, adding this is the warmest winter he remembers.

The thin ice was the main concern for county officials advising fishermen, said Paul Sleeper, fisheries management biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources at Lake Macbride.

"We usually have a foot to foot-and-a-half of ice, but the 30s and 40s didn't make much ice in early December, and we didn't get any more help in January," Sleeper said.

Color plays a big part in determining whether ice is safe enough to stand on, Freidhof said, but it can sometimes be deceiving.

He said, in general, light gray-to-dark ice and white-to-opaque ice should be avoided, but blue-to-clear ice is safe.

"There are a lot of natural springs and flow issues in Lake Macbride, and they can be very dangerous if you don't know the body of water," Freidhof said.

It is important to take precautions on the ice. He said ice-fishers ought to attach a rope to themselves that is also on land, wear an inflatable life jacket, and always let others know where they'll be fishing.

But despite the hampered ice fishing, many anglers took advantage of traditional fishing with the warm weather, hooking fish in the Iowa River and also the Mississippi River.

And Bentley agreed the lack of ice does have benefits.

"It may help from the standpoint that there weren't a lot of fished killed from the layers of ice," Bentley said. "Spring can be a month in advance because the ice was basically nonexistent."

In today's issue:

comments powered by Disqus

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.