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Outdoor adventures: Guide to post-holiday depression

Brutus the eagle patrols the Rock River. Birds like him can lead you to bait fish, in turn leading to target fish.
Brutus the eagle patrols the Rock River. Birds like him can lead you to bait fish, in turn leading to target fish.

Another Christmas, come and gone. Just like that. All the buildup, the hanging of lights and decorating of trees. The buying of more presents than you can shake a stick at, and the extra pounds from all the extra food.

The renewed relationships with those rarely seen, and the reminders of how grateful we are for what we have. Then reality hits you smack dab between the eyes, and it’s back to work, time to pay for the presents. Time to toss the tree, take down the lights and prepare to deal with the harshness of a long cold winter.

Sounds great, don’t it? I know some of you just hurled in your mouth but, really, late winter does not have to be so dreary.

There are some really great things to do in the outdoors. Right now, the deer are finally starting to settle from being harassed steadily for 2-plus months. The deer are yarding up, meaning big groups of relaxed, feeding deer. 

It’s a great time to be in the woods. The downside is there are a lot more eyes looking around, but if you play the wind right and stay still, you have a great chance of scoring some late-winter venison.

Plus, with the forecast for a fresh inch of snow, why would you want to stay away?

If you haven’t looked at the river lately, you missed the steadily increasing flow of ice. This ice is still very small and thin, which makes river traveling – via boat, of course – very easy and, with the forecast for some warmer mid- to high-30s temperatures, we might be good for a couple more weeks.

My rule of thumb when the ice comes is to never put the boat in the river below an ice jam, even 10 miles below one. If the river is open below a dam, I feel safe all the way down to wherever the first jam is.

If you have never seen an ice jam break free from a river, just take my word for it: If you’re below it, you’re in serious trouble. You will not dodge it or outrun it.

The first time I witnessed mother nature flexing her muscle was as a young teenager, while fishing the banks of the Elkhorn Creek just east of Crow Valley Campground. The river was completely iced from somewhere around the Route 2 boat ramp all the way to the 14-inch mill.

I was fishing the 50 or so yards of open water at the mouth of the creek for wintered channel cats. While chillin’ on the bank, I heard what I thought was a boom of thunder. Once again, I heard what sounded like another massive thunderbolt. 

Then I noticed the tons of ice covering the river moving very slowly at first, then like a jet leaving the deck of an aircraft carrier.

It flew by and disappeared, and the river was open. Just like that, a winter’s worth of ice gone in seconds. The awesomeness of this event didn’t really dawn on me right away, but I guess the best way to describe it is it’s like an avalanche on water. 

So beware, and protect yourself from the hazards of winter.  

January is just about here, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. We got open water, safe ice for ice fishing. Outdoor sports show season is kicking into full season, and there are plenty of critters to chase.

So stay off the couch. Go Catfish!

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