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Ice Fishing Hooks The Brave And The Cold

Cleveland MetroPark's Mike Durkalec shows off one of the new trout being deposited into Shadow Lake (pic: Brian Bull)
Cleveland MetroPark's Mike Durkalec shows off one of the new trout being deposited into Shadow Lake (pic: Brian Bull)

On the surface of Shadow Lake near Solon, Cleveland MetroParks staff carve holes in the thick ice. Some use augers….essentially giant, motor-driven corkscrews….others use chainsaws.

Either way you cut it, aquatic biologist Mike Durkalec says die-hard ice fishermen better get their hooks out there.

“We only really are counting on quality ice for another several weeks, after that a couple weeks, it’s gonna get pretty dicey after that. But these fish will be available as the ice melts into spring, so plenty will get caught at that point as well.”

Nearby, MetroParks staff pour dozens of trout out of barrels into the freshly-carved holes.

Durkalec says they’ve just put 500 lbs. of trout into Shadow Lake. They’ll divvy up another 500 lbs. worth between two lakes at the Hinckley Reservation, roughly 20 miles south of Cleveland, next.

This week, Cleveland MetroParks is wrapping up its seasonal fish-stocking program. Durkalec says all told, his teams have put more than two tons’ worth of trout into five different lakes in the region for the winter.

Walking across Shadow Lake outside Solon, Durkalec says right now conditions are good for ice-fishing and other activities.

“The rule of thumb is you want a minimum of 4 inches of ice just to support just people walking. 5 to 6 inches for a snowmobile or ATV. And 8 to 12 inches can support a small car. As you can see here, we have a foot of ice."

Durkalec says last year’s winter with the polar vortex made for the thickest ice he’s ever seen across the region.

Of the half-million anglers who use MetroParks lakes and waterways, Durkalec figures about 5 percent do ice-fishing. He hopes a first-ever fish derby happening this Saturday at Wallace Lake drums up interest and money for their fisheries program. The event helps support the parks’ fishing fund, on top of its annual $170,000 dollar budget.