CLEAR LAKE, Iowa - Last month's deep Arctic chill and a thick ice core made for great conditions to ice fish on the lake. Throughout the season, the ice got to about 16-18 in. thick, and into about the lower 20 in. range along the bay and shallow areas.
While some ice remains on portions of the lake near Ventura and McIntosh Woods, as well as along the northern shore, most of the lake has opened up. About 2/3 of the ice is completely gone, a sign that the start of spring is getting much closer.
Iowa DNR Conservation Officer Benjamin Bergman has experienced different ice conditions over the last 17 years, ranging from hardly any solid ice, to one year where the ice got to 27-28 in. thick. He says it really depends on the year, adding that the ice thickening that occurred in February doesn't happen all that often.
"It allowed that winter recreation to extend further out, near March. It varies year to year. This year, we were able to see some ice shacks out there, permanent ice shacks, motor vehicle traffic out there doing ice fishing, even snowmobiling."
This season, Bergman notes that ice formation began in late November/early December, though it was stable until the deep cold ramped up formation. Typically, longer cold periods in January help thicken and grow the ice.
"The wind is the key. When there's open water and there's wind, it can really chew ice apart. If we get any warm weather in that spell too, it can really open the lake back up. It refroze itself and re-solidified. Those are the variables we have in North Iowa as of the last 10 years, is the variability throughout the winter."