Sunshine and temperatures in the 40s February mean bad news for one local activity. Lake Erie is ice-free and that means ice fishing just isn't happening this winter.
On the edge of Lake Erie in Marblehead, there's a bit of snow and ice. But twenty yards out is open water. Ice fishing this winter has been nonexistent. "No, none whatsoever," says, Captain Pat Winke. "Not even in the marinas or harbors. None at all." Winke hasn't run any ice fishing trips this winter or made any money. He says it's been at least a decade since Lake Erie went unfrozen all winter. And this is quite a contrast to last year. Winke says, "Last year, I fished out of here. We were fishing 3 or 4 miles out catching walleye. A few days it was even farther than that."
The restaurant at Wild Wings Marina isn't nearly as busy as it usually is during ice fishing season. Motels, lodge and bait shops are all hurting for business. But the sunshine and mild weather did lure some fishermen here-- bringing boats instead of snowmobiles. Fisherman Kenny Craig of Huntington, Indiana, says, "We'd rather have ice. Without ice it tends to mud up with the wind and once it muds up it gets pretty bad so you have to wait for it to clear up again. Yeah, we miss the ice this year." His fishing partner Scott Barnebee of Vicksburg, Michigan, says, "Gotta find some minnows. Things are a little tough. No bait shops open, I don't think. So bait's an issue."
Small boats have already hit the water this week-- and there's hope that an early spring will reel in big business. Captain Tom Straus of Erie Drifter Sportfishing says, With the mild weather we're having, it's gonna be a go the first of April. So we're all gonna be busier. You know, it has an impact with the ice fishing with the local hotels and restaurants and things like that. We just hope that we can get a lot of trips in April and that's what we're looking forward to."