The arctic cold front that has blast-frozen the Midwest has some individuals cheering, not complaining. Those would be the ice fishermen.
Jigging for Lake Erie walleyes, always a choice activity when available, is getting under way this week on the west side of South Bass Island, where ice guides are gearing up for daily service this weekend.
"Three weeks ago I was bowhunting in a treestand in a sweatshirt," said ice guide Bud Gehring at Put-in-Bay. He was remarking about the sudden change of weather and prospects for ice fishing on the big lake's islands, where ice usually locks in first and best.
Gehring said he measured 10 inches of ice on Sunday, set out a test shanty, and proceeded to catch walleye with pleasing regularity. He can be reached at 419-285-3615.
Ice guide John Hageman said recent winds have piled up ice on the ramps on the west side of South Bass, but he expects the winds to drop by week's end and will begin taking clients Friday. He can be reached at 419-285-2029.
Hageman said open water still is found off the mainland and that it is highly doubtful that any ice fishing will happen from that side this winter. "We're lucky that the ice locked in [at South Bass] before the winds came up.
"The wind is always the enemy. If it comes from the east, then all bets are off."
Put-in-Bay ice guide Pat Chrysler said he already is fully booked for Saturday but will take reservations thereafter at 419-285-4631. He added that heavy current is running under the ice because of the wind effects, but things should settle down with calmer conditions.
"It's going to take some cold, calm weather to get to the open water," summed Travis Hartman, a biologist at the state's Lake Erie Fisheries Research Station in Sandusky.
He said some anglers appear poised to try Sandusky Bay and that prospects are good for bluegill, crappie, and some yellow perch at East Harbor and West Harbor on the Marblehead peninsula because those areas are well-protected. But he stressed: "You're on your own. I would never tell anyone ice is safe unless I've been on it."
In addition to ice guides, it would be well to check with Griffing Flying Services about flight schedules to the Bass Islands. The service, based in Sandusky, flies from the airport there and from Port Clinton as well. The number is 419-626-5161.
Up at Mitchell's Bay, Ontario, on the east side of Lake St. Clair, the ice is solid but roughened by recent winds, according to Cathy Shaw at Bass Haven. "Fishing was good all weekend - if you've got cover and you're dressed for it. The weather was brutal."
Panfish and perch have been the order at Mitchell's Bay. Bass Haven can be called at 519-354-4242 or online at www.basshavencanada.com.
Inland ice fishing also is under way in both northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.
The state's Lake La Su An chain of lakes in Williams County began taking reservations yesterday for fishing Thursday and Sunday. Call 419-636-6189 on Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon to make reservations and the same hours on Thursdays for any leftover reservation slots. For other details, call Ohio Wildlife District 2 at Findlay, 419-424-5000.
In southeast Michigan's popular Irish Hills region, all the lakes have five to nine inches of solid ice, said Tom Knutson at Knutson's in Hudson, Mich. The action was excellent until the weekend blow, but it should resume as winds drop, he added.
Bluegill action has been slow, but the night action for crappie has been very good. A few walleye are being taken at Vineyard lake and some northern pike are Wamplers, near Brooklyn, Mich. Spikes and waxworms are choice baits for 'gills and minnows for crappies.
Wamplers Lake will be the site of national ice fishing tournament action Saturday and Sunday, Knutson said. For details, visit online at
Pelt prices were decent at the January fur auction of the Northwestern Ohio Fur Traders, according to Frank Vavrik, an NWOFT spokesman.
Seventy lots of fur were up for bid with 15 buyers on hand the first six hours and two during the second six hours, said Vavrik. Following are the high and average prices paid, by species:
Muskrat, large, $8.25 and $6.98; large, damaged, $4.75 and $2.94; medium, $6.25 and $3.42; flat, damaged, $4.60 and $1.81.
Raccoon, large, $7.50 and $4.96; extra-large, $12.50 and $8.82; XX-large, $17.50 and $12.72; XXX-large, $20 and $16.46; rubbed, damaged, $16 and $6.86.
Mink, male, $26 and $17.03; female, $16 and $10.80. Opossum, extra-large, $4 and 42.33; large, $5 and $2.69; medium, $2.25 and $1.43.
Red fox, $35 and $19.61. Gray fox, $37.50 and $30.29. Coyote, $21 and $10.46. Skunk, $8 and $3.88. Beaver, $5 and $5.
The last sale of the season is set for March 3, Junior Fair Building, Wood County Fairgrounds, West Poe Road, Bow-
ling Green. Doors open at 7 a.m. and sale begins at 9 a.m. For details or lot information, call Sam Dewyer 419-352-0171. NWOTF is holding only two sales this winter.
The Golden Eagle, skippered by Rex Damschroder of Fremont on a 10,000-mile sailing circuit of the Atlantic Ocean, continues to make its way through the Virgin Islands of the eastern Caribbean, heading for an interim anchorage off the east end of Puerto Rico by week's end.
A series describing Damschroder's sail to date appeared in The Blade last week.
Since leaving Antigua in the eastern Caribbean, the boat has sailed to Nevis/St. Kitts, then on to St. Maarten, where Damschroder said via e-mail that he saw more luxury yachts per acre than anywhere he has been. The voyage continued on to St. Barts, then a long overnight sail of 81 miles to Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.