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Rising temperatures cause New England fishermen to leave the ice earlier than usual: 'Climate change is a reality'.
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Rising temperatures cause New England fishermen to leave the ice earlier than usual: ‘Climate change is a reality’.


Fishers in New England are facing a challenge this winter as rising temperatures are causing them to leave their usual spots on lakes earlier than usual. This concerning situation could potentially endanger a long-standing recreational activity.

Icy fishing is a common practice in locations such as New Hampshire, where individuals gather at frozen lakes every winter with their portable shelters.

These little houses – diminutive, hand-built wooden shanties mounted on sled gliders so they can be pulled into the middle of frozen lakes – have long offered protection from the freezing northern winds. In recent years they have become ever more elaborate, with holes built into their floors for hauling in fish, along with heaters, solar panels, lights and even TVs.

Ice fishers are facing the situation of being trapped on the lakeside due to having to prematurely end their fishing endeavors.

On a Tuesday in late February, with temperatures in the balmy 50s, fishermen on Lake Winnepocket in New Hampshire were hurrying to remove their bob-houses from the quickly melting ice.

Johnny Cutter and Ethan O’Neil quickly used winches and all terrain vehicles similar to tractors to move their ice shanties off the lake before the ice became thin enough to break.

Cutter, walking through puddles in his ice cleats, acknowledged the truth of global warming. Though he had previously doubted its existence, he now believed in its reality.

smiling man holds open door of small house to show small room with cot and equipmentView image in fullscreen

O’Neil, who was working to hoist his little house on to some rounded logs so he could roll it on to planks lined up on the lakeshore, agreed. “Tell everybody in the lower states to stop using their air conditioners, so we’ll have winter up here.”

Per Stephen Baron, a meteorologist at the closest National Weather Service station in Gray, Maine, the temperatures did not fall below 0F (-18C) in the vicinity of Concord, New Hampshire, this winter. This has not happened since the 1952-53 winter season.

Currently, the mean temperature is just 0.1 degrees away from breaking the record for the warmest winter in Concord’s history, according to him. He also mentioned that these records have been kept dating back to 1869.

Since his youth, Cutter has been participating in ice fishing on lakes in New Hampshire. He recalls his stepdad introducing him to the activity by providing a pup tent and a “Mr Buddy” portable heater.

“He mentioned that the houses in the past did not possess the same level of grandeur as the ones we have today,” he stated. “My house boasts a 300-watt solar panel on its roof, providing power for all my electrical needs and TV. I have even added a disco ball.”

Recently, the bob-houses have been removed from the lakes before the mandated deadline of April 1st. According to Cutter, some local fishing events were called off due to dangerously thin ice this year. Additionally, with winter starting later and the snow melting earlier, his house only spent 20 days on the ice.

The melting ice can pose a threat to fishers, potentially creating hazardous conditions. In certain areas of the nation, multiple individuals have accidentally fallen into the water, sometimes resulting in fatal incidents. In recent times, authorities have had to rescue Jeeps and ATVs from thawing lakes.

small house has fallen partway through the ice - four people gather around it

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Cutter explained that he assisted in extracting a bob-house that collapsed three years prior. He also mentioned that a friend had constructed the house with a glass roof, inadvertently creating a heated greenhouse effect that caused a hole to form in the ice below it.

“He mentioned that it was floating,” he explained. “Hence, they refer to it as a bob-house due to its actual bobbing motion.” (There are various interpretations regarding the origin of the term, with some suggesting it has to do with the movement of a fishing line.)

On the previous Tuesday, Cutter determined that despite the sunny weather, the ice on Lake Winnepocket was still 10 inches thick and suitable for walking on, but this could change if the predicted warm rain occurred in the evening.

Cutter glanced over the frozen surface and spotted an orange flag emerge from one of his wooden ice fishing traps placed about a hundred feet from the edge of the lake. These traps are equipped with “tip-ups”, basic contraptions that trigger a flag to go up when a fish tugs on the line hanging through the hole in the ice into the water.

Cutter hopped onto his ATV and raced across the frozen surface to retrieve the line. He couldn’t contain his excitement as he reeled in a chunky, wide-mouthed bass, estimating it to weigh at least 5 pounds.

He paused for a photo and promptly returned the bass to the hole, citing it as the best for the lake.

“Being out here is wonderful,” he expressed. “This is a significant hobby for us, and we’re missing out on the chance to indulge in it.”

Source: theguardian.com