That Friday morning was the beginning of something here in New Jersey, which me and my family were happy to escape for a long weekend. Leaving Hobby Airport in Houston, we drove directly to Johnson Space Center. I chose to rent a little hatchback, since we wouldn't drive much, and the AAA discount saved us more money than my Outdoor Writers Association of America discount would have. It's a funny thing about writers. They get left out in the cold. Penniless or close to it, that is. Eighty Five degree warmth felt almost hot. We had shot southward just as the arctic air mass kissed our tail.
And here I am on Wednesday, unable to get out and fish yesterday, because torrents of rain came down in the morning, and I usually don't go out in such this time of year. In the afternoon I worked. But after missing out on the fantastic ice fishing earlier in the season, I felt happy to get a phone call from Landolfi, telling me to forget the rain and near 60 degrees, there's 12 inches of ice on Hopatcong. I doubt that much, but there's about seven.
Dead. That's the lake I know. Four of us in my purview altogether, each of us after northern pike, sunfish and a couple of crappies got caught jigging, but not a single flag rose to honor what we really wanted most.
The fishing a month ago or so impressed me as verging on insanity, it was so good, judging the faithful photographs in the reports, and especially the numbers, but the size: Out of sight. You had to be there, and I was so caught up in things, I missed the part I like best. First ice.
One of the guys is wondering if it's all over. Not the ice. He feels assured we have a solid season now, which could mean it lasts into March, who knows, but he's fished the lake for many years persistently and knows how it slumps. Nevertheless, there's pike to be caught, and since they have to eat, some will get pulled through. If ice remains.
Back in late December, with weather like April, some people seriously believed there may not be an ice season this year. Never judge things by the nonce. Always include a larger picture supported by evidence, because if you plan by what the moment seems to tell you, you get fooled in the next.
That's not why I missed out on the pike action, because I held a consistent opinion to the contrary of no ice this year. I can't think of any year when here in New Jersey no ice came at all. Maybe it was 2008 when we had a week of ice fishing, but that's not nothing. And perhaps one or two of my earlier blog posts from 2011 or 2012 aren't grounded in such statistics, if indeed I questioned whether we would have any ice, rather than a short season. You can read them and find out if you want, I'm taking a lazy approach to the question.
It's too easy to lose proper sensibility to the sky and imagine things like a winter without ice in New Jersey.