Small towns begin to form on the lake as ice fishing heats up


by Joe Wilkinson

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

  A return to the deep freeze should send a lot of anglers to the ice this week. And they should be conscious of changing ice conditions.  Mild temperatures and rain have pounded away at what had been a pretty solid sheet of ice on lakes and backwaters. The deterioration is more apparent across the southern half of the state; with slow current winding through old stream beds.

To the north, many ice anglers barely left their posts. Temperatures have been colder—longer. Ice came earlier and thicker. Ahead of the thaw late this month, reports on Clear Lake ranged from 10 to 18-inches thick. That was thick enough for small towns to form there and on some of the bigger waters through the state.

Just don’t call them ‘ice shacks.’ A lot of the shelters dotting the ice on Iowa’s big lakes could pull into a summer campground…except for the holes in the floor.

“They’re really equipped with all the comforts of home,” admires DNR fisheries biologist Scott Grummer. “You see people fishing, as comfortable as you sitting in your easy chair in the living room, watching TV.”

Grummer pointed out some, as we headed across the ice. Some were built with more traditional wooden walls. Others—trailers--were towed out to the angler’s favorite spot. The wheels were cranked out and up…dropping the structure onto the ice. These ‘permanent’ shelters stay here, with the owner’s name and hometown, until weak ice threatens…or Feb. 20, whichever comes first. 

We walked past the one with the TV antenna. Nobody home.  

Dave Orr answered our knock at his door, though. His wall-mounted propane panel heater was a welcome feature, after a windy walk across the ice. Small windows let him know when it is dark. Coat hooks, wooden stools, a shelf and fishing gear fill the interior. There was no custom cabinetry, satellite TV or other perks, featured in some of the photos Grummer showed me earlier. This one was built for fishing.

And it did the job.

“I found a little deeper water this year. I’m having pretty good luck; every time I’ve been out, I have caught fish,” reported Orr, of Clear Lake. As he spoke, he pulled up a small yellow perch that had just chomped on his minnow.

“From this size up to ten inches; crappies ranging from seven, up to 12½ inches; yellow bass (up to) 10-inches.”  He and fishing partner Brad Boldt caught five fish in the 20 minutes we spent looking over their shoulders.

“There seems to be a lot of crappies in here. I’m real happy with that population,” said Orr.

One reason is the recently concluded dredging, deepening this area of west Clear Lake.

“They are getting a lot more crappies now,” agreed Grummer. “We have a couple strong year -Read More Via e-Edition

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