We finally are having some cold, ice-making weather.
However, hardcore ice anglers are going to notice some changes in the coming days, changes that affect the number of fish you are catching.
I have spent a lot of time messing with a digital thermometer under the ice. You would be surprised at what the water temperatures really are down there. Sure, everyone knows water freezes at 32 degrees, so ice is near 32 degrees. You also may know water is at its densest at 39 degrees. That is why ice floats. Yes, the warmest water under the ice may be near 39 degrees and that may be near the bottom in deep water.
That is not always the case, though. The longer water takes to freeze, the more the water is mixed, the colder it can get. Areas of open water actually may cool the water in the surrounding area. Even though it may be a difference of only a few degrees, believe me, it is a huge difference to the fish. Temperatures actually may rise a few degrees once a water body caps over with ice.
Midwinter conditions with very cold weather and snow cover also make a big difference. Colder water can be pushed deeper under those conditions and is a big reason the midwinter bite can lag.
The calendar says it is February. Even if we now are experiencing the coldest weather of the winter, our ice season is not going to last a lot longer. As the days get longer and the sun gets higher, temperatures are going to rise. Snow will melt and so will the ice.
Surprisingly, on late ice, water temperatures can be relatively warm under the ice. A lot warmer than you would expect. I have measured water temperatures well into the 40s just below the ice on which I was standing. Yes, that is a little unnerving, and yes, late ice starts to melt from underneath, too.
On the other hand, as the water warms under late ice, the fish start to feed. Why do we ride the ice as late as safely possible? Because the bite is that good! With those warming water temperatures, fish are often cruising way off the bottom, sometimes only a few feet under the ice.