The thought of heading south and leaving the Finger Lakes for the winter has never been high on my agenda. I’ve enjoyed winter ever since I was young, and to this day, I take pleasure in watching a good winter storm blanket the landscape. After shoveling, I’m usually anxious to take a hike or go cross-country skiing in the forest in the hope of observing deer scratching in the snow for acorns or a red fox plunging into the snow in search of mice. Back at the house, cardinals and other songbirds flock to my feeder and gorge on sunflower seeds. Forethought in the placement and arrangement of the feeder can provide excellent opportunities to photograph birds. If the night is calm, it’s the time of the year to listen for great horned owls, hooting in advance of nesting. In the Finger Lakes region, they usually begin nesting in late February.
While I’m on this love affair with winter, I prefer to have plenty of snow, rather than a muddy brown landscape, and temperatures cold enough to freeze the lakes. I’m one of those crazy people who take solace in sitting on a frozen lake on top of a bucket, totally engrossed in catching yellow perch through the ice.
The solitude that comes with ice fishing soothes my nerves and offers me an opportunity to be alone with my thoughts, and while on the ice, my thoughts are pretty simple. I try to outwit the perch, which, by the way, doesn’t always happen.
On a good day, I may only have to drill one hole in the ice to catch dinner. Some days, I drill numerous holes in search of the constantly moving schools of fish. That usually draws a comment from my wife, Michele; too many ice fishing holes make it difficult to ice skate.
There are numerous tales about ice fishing. One of my favorites is by Martin Moody, an old time New York outdoorsman. “Twas a blame cold day, and the lines friz up stiffer ’n a fence wire just as I pulled ’em in, and my fingers got so dum frosted I couldn’t bait the hooks. But the fish was thicker and hungrier ’n flies in June. So I just took a piece of bait – held it over the hole and each time a fish jumped up to get it I kicked it on the ice. Them fish soon froze solid and in no time I had 400 pounds of ’em stacked up solid like cordwood.”
What’s not to like about winter in the Finger Lakes? There are plenty of opportunities for solitude where you can let your imagination run wild, as fishermen often do. Later in the winter, after shoveling heavy, wet snow from a late March storm, I head inside and sit by the wood fire, thinking to myself, “I’ve just about had my fill of winter.”
by Bill Banaszewski
Bill Banaszewski is a photographer and owner of Finger Lakes Images, specializing in pictures of the outdoors. See more of Bill’s photographs at www.thefingerlakesimages.com.