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What — and when — is 'ice out?'

Well, check it out ... the calendar says that it should be much warmer and that people should be fishing for yellow perch and trout about this time. However, Old Man Winter is hanging on for a 15-round split decision and the chances of wetting a line anytime soon are pretty slim. That's a drag, because usually by now we have had several good fishing trips to local destinations.

The term "ice out" is traditionally associated with mid-west and northern-tier ice fisherman. It is the time when the last bit of lake ice has melted off, allowing both bank and boat fishing. Last winter, one of the coldest locally on record, saw ice fishermen drilling holes in the Mason-Dixon region as late as March 10 on some waters. It was also the first time I can remember ice being on lakes as late as March. But this year has been even more enduring. As I sit here and watch a 10-inch snowstorm lock me in, I am wondering if this global warming stuff is true or just a bunch of baloney.

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I have some Internet contacts from Minnesota who told me that last winter they were ice fishing for big bluegill as late as May 19 on their lakes. That is just not right. Around here that time, I was on my way to northwest Pennsylvania's Pymatuning Lake for some of the best springtime crappie fishing I have had in years ... and no ice. Sheesh, it was, like, 80-plus degrees every day on that trip. Fish were shallow and spawning and we had a multi-species smorgasbord.

So, I guess the big question is ... when will we see "ice out?" My best guess is about the third week of March around the Mason-Dixon. In past years, again, I had been catching big bass in local ponds and crappies in the reservoirs anytime after March 1. Not this year.

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I have grown weak and weary of watching satellite fishing shows, You Tube videos on fishing, tying jigs and scanning the outdoor catalogs for stuff I wish I could legitimately convince myself that I need.

Another complaint while I'm in the complaining mode ... the trout seasons are gonna be all screwed up with frozen waters and tough stocking conditions on the back roads of many streams and creeks, both in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Although I am not a huge fan of the regional trout fishing gig, I do enjoy catching a few stockies on ultra-light gear and spoons and spinners. Often, though, my biggest trout of the season are taken well after opening day, when most of the crowds have fizzled out and had their fill of the shoulder-to-shoulder, PowerBait chucking antics from the Cabin Fever crowd.

And maybe that's just what it is: I have a bad, bad case of cabin fever. I fussed at my cat the other day and turned down fried chicken.

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Clearly, there must be something radically wrong with me to do such uncharacteristically weird stuff. Hopefully, the weather will break, the ice will melt and all will once again be well with the world.

Everybody will get out and embrace spring and rejoice.

Jim Gronaw is a freelance outdoor writer from Westminster. His column appears in the Advocate on the first and third Wednesday of the month.

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