Ice may measure a foot thick atop some area lakes, lagoons and ponds — solid for winter fishing — but this weekend's wet, warm forecast will keep avid anglers on their toes.
If soil on the shore is exposed to the sun, ice near the bank could crumble, said “Captain” Jon Hurt, who manages Croegaert’s Great Outdoors, 4002 11th St., Rock Island. Before stepping out onto the ice, he stressed, anglers should drill test holes near the shore, a safety precaution they should continue taking every few feet they cover.
Temperatures will remain above normal for mid-January through the weekend, peaking mainly in the 40s during the day, the National Weather Service, Davenport, reports. Rain is expected Sunday night into Monday, but the precipitation may change to snow Monday night as it moves out of the region.
“Rain is bad, but you need days of warm weather and sunshine to melt ice away,” Hurt said. “It’s not going to deteriorate in a couple of hours.”
The unseasonable spell could hinder a series of upcoming ice fishing tournaments in the Quad-Cities, all of which were canceled last winter due to lack of ice. Hurt is confident, however, “there’s plenty of ice to survive this warm weather.”
For the first time in three years, the Geneseo Izaak Walton League plans to host its public Ice Fishing Derby at 8 a.m. today on the Hennepin Canal. Registration begins early this morning with a “really good” breakfast, Hurt said. One Izaak Walton League representative said Friday there was 14 inches of ice on the bay that abuts their property.
“It would need to be 40-plus (degrees) for three weeks for it to be unsafe,” said Victor Bianchetta, membership chairman.
Two other groups hope the clear, solid ice stays intact for their events scheduled for next Saturday, Jan. 27. Princeton Outdoor Adventures is promoting its Fargin Icehole Competition at Lost Grove Lake in rural Scott County, while the Rock Island Conservation Club has its Winter Fishing Tournament for members and their guests.
"I just do it for fun," said Kevin Kernan, who organizes the public contest at Lost Grove Lake. "It's an adventure."
He expects about 60 participants to register the night before at Go Fish Marina Bar & Grille, 411 River Drive, Princeton.
"We encourage teams (of two)," said Kernan, the owner of Duey's Corner Tap in Port Byron, Illinois. "If something were to happen, you have another person there to help."
Pairs are allowed to catch a maximum of 30 fish, a mix of bluegills and crappies, each of which must measure at least 6 inches long. A weigh-in will follow the action, which goes from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. The team with the heaviest haul wins. The angler who reels in the biggest fish will be awarded, too.
As of Thursday, "Ice conditions are still pretty good," at Lost Grove Lake, according to the latest fishing report from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. "Don't look for them to be near as good by the end of the weekend."
Hurt said below-freezing temperatures next week should keep the ice there strong.
"That’s been our real hot spot in the Quad-City area," he said.
On a day off this week, Rudy Morgan, owner of R&R Sports in Bettendorf, tested the frozen waters at the 400-acre manmade lake. During his solo outing, he settled on a spot that stretched 30 feet below the surface. That depth, he said, makes it a unique destination for area anglers.
"I've found a bunch of bluegills here, but they don't want to play," said Morgan, who sponsors the Fargin Icehole Competition.
Jeff Harrison, conservation officer for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, also made time for ice fishing on a day off this week at Lost Grove Lake. He is co-leading a fishing clinic there today for the Quad-Cities Women's Outdoor Club. Next weekend, he will work the tournament.
"It prevents cabin fever," he said of ice fishing. "Plus, the fish taste wonderful when they come through the ice."
Fish caught during the winter months may pack more flavor because there is significantly less sediment in fresh water this time of year, Hurt said.
On Saturday, Feb. 3, Croegaert’s Great Outdoors is co-hosting the Super Hole Ice Fishing Derby on Lake George at Loud Thunder Forest Preserve in Illinois City.
Because of its depth — 72 feet at its deepest point — Lake George often is the "last one to get ice and first one to lose ice," said Hurt, who is maintaining a positive outlook.
"I think we’re going to have a good three weeks," he said. "Hopefully, everybody stays safe."