A Fishing Story That’s Really a Climate Change Story
Last winter I was up in New York’s Adirondack State Park researching a climate change story disguised as a fishing story. Technically ice fishing was my theme, a sport that Americans of European origin have been practicing since they first encountered Native Americans crouched over holes in northern ice, often concealed by a cloak of deer or bison to block the sun’s glare, allowing them to spot pike and trout hovering beneath winter’s own cloak.
The one thing the modern ice fisherman can’t ignore is climate change. And, year-by-year, the ice is getting thinner and the ice fishing season shorter.
From a southerner’s perspective ice fishing would appear to be a dying sport then, attached more to those earlier American days, akin to mink trapping or some other means of just getting by when winter slows things to a halt. But ice fishing turns out to be stubbornly popular. The longstanding site iceshanty.com has thousands of dedicated followers and an array of equipment to suit the modern ice fisherman has blossomed. The “hardwater” angler can now deploy sonar through the ice to locate quarry, set up pre-fab shelters of the lightest synthetic materials in the fraction of the time it would normally take to build an old school version out of lumber scrap.
But the one thing that the modern ice fisherman can’t ignore is climate change. And, year-by-year, the ice is getting thinner and the ice fishing season shorter. Thanks to careful record keepers who meticulously set down the extent of ice cover over time the New York North Country offers some of the best year-after-year documentation of climate change available to American scientists. Take for example, Lake Champlain the nearly “great” lake that separates New York State from Vermont and which at one time was a regular gathering point in winter for ice fishers seeking smelt, pike and lake trout.