Is Winter Making Way for an Early Spring?
On a winter break, Dawn Criscio and Chris Gabriel of East Haven visited those striking ice castles located in Lincoln, New Hampshire. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
With its unique shanties, Lake Winnipesaukee is the place to be in late February if you enjoy ice fishing and a variety of other winter outdoor activities. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
The Lunar New Year, which is the beginning of a calendar year whose months coincide with the cycles of the moon, passed one day after our recent new moon. During the new moon, the sky is at its darkest, yet here we are going into February, when daylight continues to get longer and the weather has set record warm temperatures. From that perspective, you might say that we are on the verge of turning the corner.
As if this were not enough, Groundhog Day is upon us and falls this coming Sunday, Feb. 2. Will Punxsutawney Phil see his shadow and ultimately predict six more weeks of winter, or will he will be unable to find his shadow like last year, thus predicting an early spring? From all indications, it appears as though things are shaping up for an early spring.
Of course, the rivers still may run high and fast. In the end, this hinges on the amount of snowfall that upper New England receives, the ice jams that develop along the way, and the melt. However, if temperatures continue to be on the warm side to indicate or imitate a seasonal change, spring-like activity in those key tidal rivers will increase and awake the food chain that hardly had enough time to bed down for the winter.
This will set forage in motion, alerting larger predators followed, of course, by any fishers cognizant of the events unfolding. Fishers that are on the inland waterways are also noticing a few unusual indications, aside from early eagle sightings. Normally, during this time of year, retrieves are sometimes unnervingly too slow to generate enough interest to result in a hookup. This season, though, retrieves and jerks have been more pronounced in order to achieve the desired results, again indicating the warmer conditions.
Still, Connecticut residents are spreading out. Many are taking advantage of the warm waters of Florida, even though the Sunshine State has recently been experiencing its share of cold and rainy weather. Despite that, reef fishing has been good and the flats giving up action, as well. Other fishers have only had to venture as far south as the mid-Atlantic for their share of fun, be it from a charter or beach.
Then there are the people who just need that taste of cold weather adventure, exploration, and outdoor sporting activities such as skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. They undoubtedly pack their gear and head in the opposite direction to the north country, like 21-mile long Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire for its Winter Carnival. Take East Haven residents Dawn Criscio and Chris Gabriel, who relish the cold and warm weather alike. A recent trip to Lincoln, New Hampshire took them to a spectacular display of ice castles ahead of their next special outdoor adventure: Hawaii.
On the Water
Winter’s coldest spell of the season hit the low teens with wind chills to single digits, while inshore Long Island Sound water temperatures hovered around 38 degrees. The snow that fell mostly disappeared as the mix turned to rain, leaving only icy patches the following day. That small burst of winter did breathe life into the family of ice fishers who were anxiously waiting to hit the hard water. In many cases, this turned out to be a tease before warmer 45-degree weather took over. However, nights remained in the 20- to 30-degree range, which didn’t help in terms of building up any additional ice.
Farther north of the I-95 corridor, the USCGC Bollard could be seen breaking up the ice was forming on the Connecticut River and adjacent coves. In the past, huge and untouched ice jams created travel and flooding issues that were difficult to overcome ahead of the spring season. This time around, clearing any potentially problematic areas became a priority when it came to getting a jump on a possible repeat performance.
This is a dangerous time for fishing the hard water, especially from the shoreline to just north of I-95. This stretch is usually warmer and any ice should be thoroughly tested for thickness before venturing out. I do not recommend ice fishing on anything less than four inches of clear ice (safety ice awls advisable) or operating snowmobiles or ATVs on anything less than five- to six inches. That being said, certain inland lakes and ponds have been productive both when jigging with lures using bait.
As some bodies of water froze over, others remained open as trout and salmon anglers were able to overcome the cold and variable water conditions. During this period, fishing slowed, but hookups were attainable provided that the presentations were natural and deep enough. Both lakes and ponds having open or hard water produced the typical perch, pickerel, bass, crappie, and catfish varieties, although wind was the overriding factor; determining location was another.
Accompanied by milder weather, the last weekend of January passed us by rather unscathed, even though it is known to be the coldest month. However, we can anticipate more wintry drama to be lurking just over the horizon. Nevertheless, if the winds cooperate, fishing the offshore waters for cod is a good way to scratch your fishing itch. So, join the crowd, take advantage of these warm spells, and deal with what is left of winter as it comes.
Note: Email us pics of your catches to share with our USA and international fishing friends who keep up with the latest fishing news and frequent social media.
For all things fishy including flies, swing by the shop (203-245-8665) open seven days located at 21 Boston Post Road, Madison. Until next time from your Connecticut shoreline’s full-service fishing outfitter, where we don’t make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better...