AKRON, Ohio — When the polar vortex settled on Ohio, there was a collective cheer heard around lakes from Mogadore to Mosquito to beautiful Lake Erie. It was the pent-up excitement of ice anglers racked with cabin fever. Mother Nature just wouldn't make up her mind about Winter, and it seems she still hasn't. Those who ventured out on the ice this past weekend found stellar conditions with between 6 and 11 inches of great ice. That was then and this is now.
Two days in the 50's and 40's at night coupled with rain and run-off from melting snow really did a number on the ice. The solid, clear base is shrinking fast. Warm waters are eating the ice from above and below, making conditions incredibly dangerous. Especially on Lake Erie, where high winds are expected to blow, increasing currents and breaking up what ice is still there.
I spent Saturday and Sunday on one of my favorite Northeast Ohio lakes, Nimisila Reservoir. It's managed by Summit County Metroparks and is a phenomenal fishing lake. Great catches of bluegill, redears, crappie, yellow perch, largemouth bass, catfish, and even walleye are available in any season, not just through the ice. I was targeting yellow perch and caught a lot of fish. Well over 20 each day. Many were too small to keep, but I did end up with 11 good keepers for the fryer. Yellow perch through the ice have incredible flavor and are a favorite in the Bachtel home.
What was even better than the fishing was the number of anglers on the ice. It was great to see so many families out there, shanty in tow, setting up to catch a few fish. Every once in a while, the happy sound of "I GOT ONE! I GOT ONE!" echoed across the ice as a young angler's heart was filled with the Joy of the catch. Those who have ice fished know this is something special. Those catches burn memories into your soul, whether you're the little kid pulling the fish in or the grown up who made the experience happen. As a Dad, it always brings a smile to my face as I remember the experiences when I was a kid, then with my own children.
Those moments are fleeting, just like the ice we fish on. Cherish both as long as you can and always remember, safety first. Ice is something that is here today, gone tomorrow, especially with the crazy weather extremes we're experiencing.