The extreme cold of winter is bringing the north country a number of positive consequences.
n The ice fishing is terrific and much safer with the thick ice cover. Henderson Harbor, Chaumont Bay and the Lake of the Isles are attracting plenty of ice fishermen who are being rewarded with nice catches of perch and northern pike.
n The heavy snow has attracted snowmobilers from across the state, proving to many outsiders that Lewis County offers the world-class snowmobile opportunities the governor is promoting.
n The ski slopes are attracting ardent skiers, providing to both young and old many hours of vigorous outside activity.
n The Great Lakes are nearly covered with ice.
The ice on the five Great Lakes just may be the best weather news for all of the Northeast. At this point, about 60 percent of the lakes are covered with ice. Over the last 30 years, the lakes have seen only 50 percent coverage. Last year, just 38 percent of the lakes were ice bound.
Mark Gill, director of vessel services for the U.S. Coast Guard in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., told the Wall Street Journal that it had been 25 years since the lakes experienced this much ice so early in the winter. Besides aiding the perch fisherman land pail after pail of ice cold fish, the frozen cap reduces evaporation of water from the lakes. Evaporation is the major factor in the reduction of water levels. When the surface of the lakes is protected by thick ice and a blanket of snow from the drying rays of the sun, the prospects for higher water levels next summer increase.
The Great Lakes get water mostly from precipitation and lose water from evaporation. That evaporation happens year round, including in the winter. And if you put a cap on the Great Lakes, virtually no water is evaporating, Andy Buchsbaum of the Great Lakes office of the national Wildlife Foundation told The Journal.
The prospect for more water next summer is always good news. And that water may be cleaner because the ice cap increases the natural process of churn in the lakes, which adds oxygen to the water and helps fish to grow and to reduce levels of algae, Mr. Buchsbaum explained. The deep freeze of 2014 may help reverse the growth of algae, which for several years has made the lakes less and less palatable.
As the weather breaks this weekend, there are plenty of chances to head for the ice to compete in a fishing derby and enjoy the camaraderie of others adept at drilling holes and baiting hooks. Any fisherman prepared for the below zero temperatures and biting winds will take home some tasty perch and vivid memories of persevering despite the extremes of winter to enjoy the beauty of the frozen lake. And they should be reassured that there are plenty of benefits from a brutal winter freeze.