Finally the warm spell broke and polar weather returned! Winter is Good!
Winter without snow is like jelly without peanut butter. It’s okay I ‘spose but it’s not right. Everybody and everything suffers when the season is unseasonable. We need winter to be wintry.
So, there I was, comfortably seated in my chair, when Rose says, “Come look out the window, it’s really pretty”. So I did. I didn’t expect the camera to take that good of a picture. It actually captured the scene as I saw it. The next morning, the view from the same window looked like this…
Now, that’s more like it!
And now for your reading pleasure, an All Outdoors column that I wrote January, 2017, when we had a similar weather pattern.
All Outdoors by Tim Blodgett
Here we are again. We should be doing wintry things but we can’t because Winter seems to have to have taken a vacation and left Spring to mind the store. I’m a big fan of Spring, but I don’t like it dropping in unexpected right when I’ve got winter on my mind. My winter weather loving compatriots have been moping about for the last week or so watching the snow and ice turn to slush. If I could control the weather, winter would arrive a little early, stay in character for the duration and leave before its welcome runs out. Unfortunately, I’m not in charge and Winter has made a hash of itself. Why does this happen every year?
I went looking for an explanation of what the weather was doing and this is what I found. A “Singularity” is what the weather phenomena, “January thaw” is known as, meteorologically speaking. This is a very different type of singularity than the one associated with the demise of massive stars, crushing inescapable gravity wells and X ray bursts that would fry our planet to a cinder. Winter started off the way I would have made it, early and in character, followed by a cold early/mid January and then it stalled. Weather statisticians predict that the coldest day of the year should fall on January 23rd so, what happened this year? A “Singularity” defined as “a characteristic meteorological condition that tends to occur on or near a specific date more frequently than chance would indicate” is what happened! The January thaw doesn’t happen every year but when it does it typically happens roughly about January 20th– 24th give or take a few days. It’s right on schedule and perfectly inconvenient, again.
Now that we know what’s happening to winter, the next logical question is, WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? The simple answer is, (you’re going to love this) nobody really knows why the January thaw is a thing. Meteorologists can point to weather maps that diagram advancing fronts, stationary highs and lows and predicted storm tracks. Weather satellites and stations relay the latest weather data giving us constantly updated weather information, feeding our weather obsession. We could clearly see, in the case of the recent weather, a warm air mass dominated the northeast and pushed the cold air in a polar direction. Many people would point to climate change as the driving force behind it all but it is likely to just be the inherent unpredictability of the weather. The January thaw tends to be more pronounced and happens more frequently in the northeast and north central parts of our country so, there you have it. I’ll take our unique weather singularity over other weather extremes even if it is inconvenient to all my ice fishing, skiing, snowmobiling and snowman building friends. Maybe we should just plan on it happening every year so we can be pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t occur. I went to several websites to research the information above. https://weather.com/science/weather-explainers/news/is-january-thaw-real-or-a-coincidence and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thaw_(weather) are just a couple of the sources available. Satisfy your inner weather junky and check them out.
You will often find yourself on the losing side of the bet if you wager on the weather, at least in the short term, but general trends tend to be stable. Fear not, the cold will return and if the patterns are favorable, the ice will firm up and snow will again blanket the land. I will patiently wait for the ice to refreeze before resuming ice fishing this year. Before the warm spell, most lakes had safe ice and fishermen were catching limits of panfish and walleyes. A village of ice fishermen sprang up on the south end of Saratoga Lake as word of excellent fishing circulated through the fishing community. Big walleye, jack perch and gorilla bluegills were in a cooperative mood and were featured as the batter dipped, crispy golden fried guests of honor at many a dinner table. Small jigs tipped with spikes were fooling bluegills in 8 to 10 feet of water while perch were falling to tip-ups baited with small minnows in 15 to 20 feet. Rapala jigs were working for the perch also. The walleye bite generally started around sundown at 12 to 15 foot weed edges. As it got later in the evening, the walleye would move shallower as they foraged. Savvy anglers moved their tip-ups shallower in response catching hungry walleye in 6 to 8 feet of water. When the ice is once again safe try those tactics again but remember, the walleye will start moving toward the north end of the lake as spawning season approaches.
Cossayuna Lake in Argyle is another lake to visit once the cold weather take hold again. Cossayuna is full of bluegills, crappie, perch and big northern pike. You even have a chance to hook into a Tiger Musky there. Panfish tactics will be similar to those used on Saratoga Lake. The pike and tigers will be looking for a big meal. Use tip-ups baited with large shiners or suckers for these trophies. When you hook one and bring it through the hole, try to handle it carefully, get your pictures and if you don’t plan to eat it, quickly return it to the water. They are ferocious predators but they can’t take rough handling and that 20 pound fish may be older than you. Even if the toothy fish aren’t biting, you can count on the bass to keep you busy. You can’t keep them this time of the year but they are fun to catch.
All you ice fishermen waiting for Lake George to freeze are going to have to think cold thoughts to help it along. Lake George is one of the premier destinations for the local and not so local crowd and usually doesn’t freeze until mid January most years. Our little singularity hasn’t helped things so we’ll just have to wait and cross our fingers for Lake George. If you must go ice fishing, head north and up into the hills. I won’t recommend any waters right now but use extreme caution if you venture out, just don’t expect me to join you any time soon.
Archery leagues are starting up at the local sporting clubs and are always looking for new people to join them. If you are not one for the snow and ice, this is a great way to keep active during the winter and your skills honed for next deer season. New 2017 bows will start arriving at the archery shops very soon so if you’re looking for something new, there will be a lot of choices. If you are looking for a new challenge, consider traditional archery. Shooting a re-curve bow or long bow is as much art as skill and can give a sense of satisfaction you won’t get from shooting a modern compound bow. If you want to see an interesting branch of archery’s evolution, stop down to my shop in Schuylerville. I just received a bow made by Martin Archery in 1974 called the Kamact MK2. It’s an interesting mash-up traditional and modern (for its day) technology. The technology wasn’t quite up to the concept so not many were made and very few survive today, I’m fortunate to own one and will be happy to show it off.
They say “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade” so I say “thank you for the lemonade” and will be eager to make snow cones if we get snow and Slushies if we get slush. There’s plenty to do this season even if it’s not what you were expecting. Old Man Winter and his boy Jack Frost will soon return to rid us of our singularity and brighten the landscape with a fresh blanket of snow. Until then, stay healthy, happy and enjoy a little lemonade.