Oh, no snow! The thick blanket of insulating fluff has undoubtedly put a damper on the ice fishing season.
From a proactive standpoint, let's consider the positives. First, snowmobile activity is nearly back to what we might consider "normal" compared to years ago when a good snow base was so common.
The trails are well traveled and the gas stations, restaurants and hotels are getting mid-winter business that used to be common-place, but haven't been the past few winters.
Another positive effect from the accumulated powder is the moisture provision that our soil and lakes currently lack.
The negative of this build-up and melting process is the anticipated and (hopefully) certain thaw.
A rapid spring melt produces greater amounts of water, equaling run-off, in shorter periods of time. This creates a stronger "current" from snow turning into water that can carry sediment and minerals into low-lying areas, particularly lakes and ponds, before being absorbed by the soil or caught by naturally growing vegetation.
Additionally, access to lakes has been very difficult for anglers due to the influx of snow.
Vehicle travel on the ice is problematic to impossible, dependent upon three factors; four-wheel drive, high vehicle clearance and plowed roads.
The best case, a plowed road, permits cars, two-wheel drive trucks, ATVs and possibly, if you had the ambition, access while pedaling a mountain bike (though I wouldn't recommend it from previous adolescent experience).
Resorts plow roads on large lakes, but charge a fee to use their access, investing the proceeds for plow-vehicle gas and maintenance.
In the Park Rapids area, those opportunities are limited. Most anglers cross their fingers and hope that maybe, just possibly, someone has a plow mounted to the front of their 4x4 and decided to etch a road through the grainy white terrain.
When you finally find one of these golden roads that provide easy lake access, we often say a silent "yes" or "sweet". Had we only known who scraped this path, everyone using the trail would've kicked in a few greenbacks, a swig from our coffee thermos and an exuberant "thank you" that drifts away for several seconds in a steamy breath.
Good job plow person. We rarely know your vehicle's make or model, your gender or occupation, though we might note the color of your fish house, the only indicator of point "B" in an eight foot wide line drawn through the snow by your steel plow.
Yet even when the fish houses disappear, it seems someone is always generous enough to share a path for other anglers. Maybe they scraped the ice-surface to make a skating rink for kids or as an access to rescue a friend whose vehicle was high-centered and stuck in a drift.
Still, we salute you invisible plow person.
Chatting with a friend last week, I mentioned my gratitude for whoever cleared an accessible path for everyone to use.
My buddy paused and said "Ummm, the plow owner just wanted to get out fishing for themselves."
Hail to you, plow person.