Unusually frigid temperatures are being felt throughout the U.S. this winter and everyone is taking notice. Most of January, the local news reports began with something like, “overnight temperatures may drop to record lows,” or “A polar vortex has descended upon…” As though we hadn’t noticed or, needed to be reminded that it’s cold outside. One major news story, out of Buffalo, NY included footage of Niagara Falls frozen in midair.
For Pittsburghers still in need of some cold hard evidence, you need look no further than the frozen Three Rivers. While it isn’t unheard of, most winters do not cause the city’s Three Rivers to freeze. But, this has not been a usual winter. The point being that open water is a scarce commodity right now.
In the angling community, frozen water is regarded as a major inconvenience by everyone except ice fishermen. Now it’s been my experience that anyone that finds pleasure while shivering over an open hole in the middle of a lake is either a masochist or, has been the unfortunate victim of repeated head trauma. On the other hand, the same conclusion can be drawn in witness of the shivering Erie steelhead angler, standing chest deep in the only recently unfrozen waters of early February. So I’ll cast all ice fishing aspersions aside in lieu of inciting the age old, pot vs. kettle comparison.
But, warmer temperatures are inevitable. When they do arrive, and the ice returns to freely flowing waters again, look for the fish to respond in a big way. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. To survive the winter, fish must conserve energy, feeding only when it requires the least amount of effort. After a prolonged period of little available food and scarce sunlight, a warm spell will flip a switch in their tiny brains. So, when the weather breaks look for the steelhead in Erie to go on a feeding frenzy. That first egg sack, or drifted nymph drifting by will look like “Thanksgiving turkey with all the fix in’s,” to them.