Ice-out occurs in roughly the same way people describe going bankrupt: slowly at first and then all of a sudden.
Certainly, the signs have been there: The Canada geese are standing around in pairs, and a few red-winged blackbirds and robins have been spotted. It won’t be long. And though ice fishing is, frankly, No. 11 on my top ten list of enjoyable sporting endeavors, a conversation with my sometimes angling partner Chris Freiburger got me interested in one more outing.
Freiburger, a Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist who dearly loves ice fishing, was lamenting that he thought it was finished in southern Michigan for the season. Naturally, I called him everything just short of a sissy; he agreed that we should take one more stab at it.
Last ice is known as some of the best fishing of the year. Why that is, exactly, is somewhat mysterious, but my theory (one I’ve heard repeated by guys who are brainier than I) is that as the ice begins to break up along the shoreline, the water becomes more oxygenated and gets the fish going. That can make getting on the ice a little tricky, but if you can do it, the off-shore stuff is often still in pretty good shape.
So Freiburger and I found our way onto a small mid-Michigan lake on a recent late afternoon. It wasn’t easy — there were a lot of places you couldn’t get on — but once we were out, there was about three inches of solid ice. And it was a gorgeous day — blue sky, near 40 degrees — so at least the conditions wouldn’t be too hard on us.
I bored a hole in what I imagined was 15 feet of water, but when I pulled up the augur I was greeted with murky water. I went out a bit further and it was the same. We started fishing but no dice. Was it seepage from around the mucky shoreline or from somewhere a creek came in? Who knows?