First, it was plain old cold weather. Then some snow, followed by extremely cold weather. Then we got some more snow, even when it was 10 below zero. Finally, some balmy, rainy, blustery conditions, and some January thunderstorms … and another deep freeze.
Yes, we’ve seen nearly everything in these parts over the past few weeks. But that isn’t stopping ice anglers from heading out onto their favorite lakes and ponds.
Which left me thinking: What with all the snow and cold and warm (and more cold), what’s our ice like?
On Monday, as the rain fell and the wind blew, I sent out an email to four of the state’s regional fisheries biologists, who have spent plenty of time in recent days out on the state’s lakes, surveying active anglers. “How’s the ice?” I asked. “And how’s the ice going to be once it stops raining?”
The biologists had plenty to say. First, however, I’ll pass along the warning that I promised those biologists I’d share: Conditions are extremely variable. Nothing you read below will say, “All the ice on (pick a favorite lake) is safe.” Instead check the ice early and often to make sure it’s thick enough to recreate on.
Frank Frost, the regional biologist who works out of the Ashland Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife headquarters, reported that much of his region has great ice … except for the places that don’t. That’s a common theme. Keep that in mind.
“Generally, we have 6-10 inches of ice with deep slush being reported most everywhere in the region,” Frost wrote. “Long Lake [in Madawaska and St. Agatha] has been fished the most of any of our lakes; we’ve worked here several days already and the guys have found that slush and water on top of the ice is very prevalent all over.”
Farther to the north, on two of the state’s top muskellunge lakes, things are far worse, however.
“Beau and Glazier lakes are not safe anywhere at this point,” Frost wrote. “We worked here over this past weekend and found the ice to be very thin and very poor quality slush ice.”
And what about Monday’s warm-up?
“The rain/warm weather [on Monday] will certainly help conditions with a freeze up being predicted in the next 24 hours, but will not be long enough in duration to completely settle the deep snow. I would expect that slushy conditions will persist in most areas,” he wrote.
Gordon “Nels” Kramer, DIF&W regional biologist for the Penoscot Region, said conditions in the spots his crew has surveyed are good. Worth considering: Biologists are using common sense when they decide where they’re going to survey, and how they’re going to get there.
“As is always the case, ice conditions still a work in progress,” Kramer wrote. “We have been doing fish surveys at Cold Stream Pond, Schoodic Lake and Seboeis Lake this winter, and conditions vary considerably between them. Cold Stream has anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of good ice with varying amounts of snow with a crust and additional snow on top. Schoodic is pretty much the same with less ice ( only 1-2 inches along the east shore) and up to 10 inches to the north above the sawdust pile. Seboeis has up to 12 inches most everywhere but again varying amounts of snow and some slush.
“Be advised however, we have been traveling along the shore of all of these lakes and cannot speak for ice thickness out in the middle. We do not advise going there without checking as you go!” he wrote.
“We have also had reports from East Grand — bad ice most everywhere on the south end, but a few hardy souls did venture out to fish,: Kramer reported. “I suspect that the ice conditions on the north end of Grand are better (usually are), but no confirmation yet.”
“The warm temperatures and buckets of rain that are currently falling as I write this Monday morning WILL have a profound effect on ice and travel conditions on our lakes, but too early to tell exactly how. Stay tuned!” Kramer concluded.
DIF&W regional biologist Tim Obrey said he found pretty good conditions over the weekend, but stressed that biologists are taking an important safety measure at this point of the fishing season.
“Were working on Chesuncook and Moosehead this past weekend. We were able to get around very well on Chesuncook/Caribou. There was up to 14 inches of ice on Caribou,” Obrey wrote. “As Nels stated, we pretty much stick to the shoreline this time of year to be safe. In fact, [the water level on] Chesuncook Lake is down quite a bit so we were able to drive up on the shore for most of the trip, but we had to dodge the boulders. The thoroughfare between Caribou and Chesuncook is always an area to avoid. We stay on dry ground when passing through here. The same is true for the old dam site off the point near the boat launch on Chesuncook. “
On the state’s largest lake, conditions were highly variable, Obrey reported.
We were able to travel around Greenville and Lily Bay on Moosehead,” Obrey wrote. “Same story there, we were sticking to the shore. Folks are traveling across from the Rockwood boat launch to Kineo and the trail is marked. The ice thickness varies so snowmobilers and anglers need to avoid the deep areas and areas near rivers (the usual bad spots).”
Obrey also said he expected the warm weather and rain to have an effect.
“There was a little slush showing up. Hopefully this rain will soak everything down through and freeze solid,” he wrote. “We’ve had good reports of fishing on the smaller ponds which have been frozen since the end of November/early December. These ponds have a foot of ice. All in all, we are in much better shape than the past few years, but folks still need to be cautious.”
Down East Region
Regional biologist Gregory Burr reported that on the lakes he and his crew have visited, you just never know what you’re going to find.
“We have been working on waters in Washington & Hancock Counties and finding 4 to 11 inches of ice,” Burr wrote. “We have been staying close to the shore with our snowmobiles to get from angler to angler.
“At West Musquash Lake just south of Route 6 in Washington County we found 4 inches ice that had been insulated under 1½ feet of snow. At Cathance Lake we found 8 to 10 inches of ice with pockets of deep slush. At Tunk Lake we found 6 to 9 inches of ice with large pockets of slush on the southern end where most of the snow has been blown. The large amounts of rain we had [Monday] and the cold temperatures overnight should set up most of the lakes Down East with glare ice conditions for the next few days.”
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