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Ramble with Gortowski: Ice, warm water & geese

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gortowskirs Considering even the Fox is icing in, I didn't expect

a rumination from Ken Gortowski.

But one arrived, a true rumination or soul-searching:

What this is. Fishing and then, birding? I don't know.

It does start a creek theory I have. Now I may have to act on it. Or convince some other poor sap that it's a good theory and let them go find out.

Though I'm a bass angler, primarily smallmouth bass from any water of any size that flows, I tend to read more about trout and trout fishing. This is mainly because those that write about bass fishing tend to be pretty boring, while those that write about trout are not.

When reading about bass angling you have to put up with nick names for fish, bronzeback, fighting bronze, ol' bucket mouth, moss back and the like. You also have to put up with the relentless search for trophies, monsters and pigs. Top it all off with endless details of lures and rigs and how to fish them and you wind up with some pretty formulaic writing. Just plug in a vague name of where you were fishing, add all the appropriate catch phrases and you're done.

When reading about trout, I don't recall too many pet names for the fish. I don't recall seeing pictures of and reading too much about the relentless search for wall hangers and trophies. Just fishing for trout. Any size and any kind. Throw in a fair amount of description and appropriate introspection, mention what kind of fly you were using and you're done.

Holds my interest longer.

Bob Long, Jr. told me a long time ago that I'm a bass angler with a trout mentality. Which probably explains why no one reads the crap I hack out. Not enough product endorsements and agonizing details on how to fish a lure I guess.

But I do know the river, the Fox River.

And right now it's one giant flowing slushee. This cold weather that has settled in has started to freeze the river. It starts out with slush ice. I've gone wading through this in the past. It's not bad, but the problem is that the sheet ice hides in along with the slush. Large sheets of ice two to four inches thick and the size of a car can sneak right up on you. Not a pleasant experience when you're waist deep in freezing cold water.

All this slush ice will start to build up in the riffles and shallow areas all over the river and eventually freeze, with small channels of open water snaking through the ice.

The same thing happens to the creeks that feed the Fox. I've been on all of them south of Geneva. Mill, Waubonsie, Somonauk, Indian and a host of smaller creeks and ditches, they all freeze pretty much solid.

Except for two. I have pictures that prove this. For now I'll leave them nameless.

Which brings me back to the trout references.

Invariably when looking at pictures of anglers chasing trout you'll come across quite a few that look like they are fishing in a winter wonderland. Snow all along the shores, ice on the water along the edges and anglers holding fish. Generally it's explained that the creek or river is spring fed, which is generally warmer. Just warm enough to keep from freezing over.

That's what happens with the two creeks that feed the Fox. I already know that they are spring fed. During the summer months they're cold. Much colder than the river itself. I have never seen them completely freeze over during the winter like the other creeks.

I haven't had the chance to drive around them the last few days. I will have that chance within the next week. The forecast for the next 10 days shows that it won't be going above freezing. The nights will be in the teens and down into single digits. If these creeks are going to freeze, by next weekend that should happen.

I know many 3 to 8 foot deep holes in these creeks. I have caught smallies up to 18 inches out of most of them. If these creeks are open, it will be tempting to go fish these holes. Or count on some good old buddy old pal to go fish them while I go hunting for squirrels. I'll have to see how this goes. By the end of the year I should know something definite about these creeks, including whether or not they hold winter fish.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010, approximately 4 p.m. I'm doing my usual drive south along the Fox starting around Montgomery. Slush ice is clogging up the river and pushing the geese and ducks to the edges of the islands. The birds had been sitting in the riffles feeding on vegetation and hanging out, but the ice is ruining that. Because of this, there are still hundreds of birds hanging out, but fewer than before the ice arrived.

Off in the distance flying north over the river were spots in the sky. Ducks and geese were looking for someplace to land. Only they were coming over numbering in the thousands. In the 14 years I've been fishing and wandering around this river, I have never seen the numbers that were now overhead.

And I had no camera with me.

I pulled into a park along the river and stood under a park gazebo to watch the show. I didn't think standing out in the open with all those birds over head was a good idea.

The birds kept coming. At one point half of them turned and headed south. Geese were trying to form their flying V's while ducks had loose flocks going every direction. The noise from all these birds was deafening. Eventually they headed north and I headed south. Only to find even more hanging out over the river for the next 2 miles. It's important to note that in this long stretch of the river, hunting is not allowed. These birds aren't stupid, they know where they are safe.

I continued down to the stretch of river where they can be hunted. The slush ice was already collecting and freezing. There were still a lot of birds around but far fewer than just a few days ago. The areas where I saw them feeding in the shallows was now all ice. There were no birds flying. I didn't see another goose or duck in the sky all the way home, another 5 miles along the river.

I have to drive home along this stretch of river for another 2 weeks, every day at the same time. It will be interesting to see if this was a one time event, or if it's a daily occurrence.

Well, it will be interesting to me, anyway.

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on December 14, 2010 8:50 PM.

Stray Cast: Bears-Patriots, drum-smallmouth was the previous entry in this blog.

Midwest Fishing Report: Ice on ice is the next entry in this blog.

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