The Dryden Observer

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May Long — the true turning of the tide

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

There is perhaps no more pleasant distraction from the woes of our little city than can be found in the great changing of the season.

Living as we do, in a climate of extremes, it is no wonder why the Victoria Day long weekend, or May two-four, as it is more colloquially known, holds such powerful sway in Northwestern culture and beyond.

Calendars may mark the start of spring with the vernal equinox in late March, but such a date elicits little more than a grunt from your average Drydenite who in 2013 went on to endure five more weeks of winter from that point.

But here, midway into the month of May we stand on the threshold of the true change. We stand on the cusp of rebirth and awakening after a long dormancy.

It’s not just about fishing. It’s about renegotiating a important relationship with the natural world after a difficult few months.

Having camped in the rain as teenagers, most us know now that fishing just happens to be one of the best and most natural ways to pay homage to this profound change in the state of matter — from solid ice to liquid water.

For my family, May long weekend is bigger than Christmas.

There’s nothing like lingering lake ice to elevate one’s emotions around the coming holiday.

A look back into the ice-out records for Wabigoon Lake, as posted on local resident Garth Wintle’s website shows that the scenario we’re currently facing is not all that uncommon.

Since the record began in 1937, lake ice has persisted into the double digits of May on 26 occasions, just over one-third of the time.

Beyond the threshold of May 15, ice has persisted 14 times, or 18 per cent of the time. That’s usually as far as it goes.

Ice has remained on the lake until May 20 or later, just four times in the past 78 years, a rare five per cent. The most recent being 1996 when the ice went out on May 21.

The sharp statistical drop-off past May 15 bodes well, I think, for a good opening weekend of walleye fishing on Wabigoon Lake.

The latest ice-out on record was in 1950, when it held the Wabigoon in its icy grip until May 24. The earliest? April 9, 2011 — which is perhaps why our present situation feels so anomalous to some.

While statistics are fun to look at, ice watchers have their own methods of prediction — seeking tell-tale signs of impending action and waiting for the right winds to blow in.

Armed with binoculars, my father claims that open water between a certain set of islands, which he observed a few days back) means we are five to seven days from ice-out.

“It’ll be close,” he says.

Wary of a lack of fish to fry, I placed an order with the Kinsmen and Kinnettes for enough lobster to feed my extended family.

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