Well, Old Man Winter has certainly set in and as you know, the frigid temperatures are here as well. The area lakes and ponds refroze Christmas day after a week long thaw.
We were able to get out on the lakes for a few more duck hunts before the water turned hard again, but any focus on waterfowl the next few weeks is going to have to be in the cornfields as the birds come in to get a high energy meal. There are still plenty of geese around, so if you can stand the cold, success can be found in the fields if you do a little scouting.
Now that the weather has turned to an ice machine, many outdoorsman will turn to ice fishing. If you don’t know much about ice fishing and want to learn, you are encouraged to attend a free informational workshop on Saturday, Jan. 27, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The workshop will be held from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center pond on Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, located at 13229 West State Route 2, Oak Harbor, 43449. The workshop is free of charge, but pre-registration is required by Jan. 25, as space is limited. Interested individuals can register by calling Kelly Schott at 419-898-0960 ext. 21.
Trained professionals from the ODNR Division of Wildlife will cover the basics of ice safety, equipment, bait, and technique. All needed materials will be provided. This hands-on workshop is weather dependent, and participants should dress appropriately as instruction will take place outside.
Anglers of all ages are encouraged to attend, but participants 16 years or old are required to have a valid fishing license. Possible species that may be caught include bluegill, largemouth bass, and channel catfish. Any fish of legal size may be kept.
If you decide to head outdoors in these frigid temperatures to ice fish or even just to hike, the ODNR is encouraging residents and out-of-state visitors to be wise while participating in winter recreational activities. With the recent cold temperatures, it is important to remember that no ice is safe ice, and any ice that is covered by snow should always be presumed to be unsafe. Below are some safety tips to consider when spending time outdoors this winter.
If you are heading out for a winter hike: Prepare for your hike by finding out how long it is and the level of difficulty. Visiting a specific state park? Hikers should visit parks.ohiodnr.gov and select the appropriate state park to see a map of the hiking trails. Hikers should contact the local park office for trail conditions. Check the forecast, and have a plan if severe weather strikes. If inclement weather is approaching, reschedule the outdoor activity for a different time. Hikers should let others know where they will be hiking and what time they will return. Stay on the designated trail, and follow the trail signs. Bring snacks and water. Cold, dry air can dehydrate hikers quickly.
During the winter, a frequently used trail can become packed down and be icy, even if other parts of the trail are clear. Be aware of potential slick spots and use caution at all times. Dress warmly in layers. Start with insulating fabrics and use a final layer of protective fabrics. Come prepared, pay attention to how you feel and know when to go indoors. Keep your head, neck and hands covered by wearing a hat, scarf and gloves. Sturdy waterproof boots and warm socks are recommended for hikers, and hand warmers can help on longer hikes.
If you are heading out for some ice fishing: Ice anglers should prepare and share a “float plan” to let people know when they will be out on the ice, where they will be fishing, where they will park their vehicles and when they will return. Always fish with a partner or in an area where several other anglers are present. Contact a local ice guide or bait shop to ask about ice conditions. Put a cellphone in a plastic bag to protect it from getting wet. Adequately check the ice thickness before traveling onto the ice. Dress properly for conditions, which should include wearing an approved life vest. Avoid areas with feeder streams, springs, bridge pilings, docks and dam structures since ice is usually very thin there.
For more information about dressing for the winter weather in Ohio, go to parks.ohiodnr.gov/winter. To learn more about ice fishing in Ohio, go to wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/fishing/ice-fishing. ODNR also licenses fishing guides in the Lake Erie region. For people interested in going on an ice fishing trip with a guide, go to wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/fishing/ice-fishing/ohio-ice-fishing-guides. To learn more about family-friendly events at Ohio’s state parks and state nature preserves, go to parks.ohiodnr.gov/calendar.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!
Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.