Ted Peck

Outdoors talk with certified Merchant Marine Captain Ted Peck.

Peck: Where is Mr. Freeze?

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Sunday, December 3, 2017

We stared at winter almost the entire month of November—no easy task with nary a snowman to return the gaze anywhere in southern Wisconsin. But even with near-record low temperatures last month the only “safe” ice in this part of the state is found in front of Kwik Trip stores in seven-pound bags.


A legion of hardwater anglers is asking 'Where is Mr. Freeze', wondering when they'll finally get to use that power auger that has been gathering dust in the garage since late February.


Last winter was a short one, with dicey ice showing up on nether reaches of the Madison chain before the end of February. Koshkonong and the 'triangle' on Lake Monona locked up on December 10 last year, with fishable ice on other Madison lakes, Yellowstone and Lake Wisconsin following suite three days later.


In 2015 “safe” ice didn't show up until almost Christmas, but there was still fishable ice on March 10. We could walk on water in some locations by November 16 back in 2014, and 10 days after that in 2013.


Mother Nature didn't make any ice in this part of the state last week. Daytime highs were tickling 60 degrees. Fishers who have already winterized their boats were buying cheese to go with their whine, with more adventurous souls wondering if they will trade the boat seat for a bucket by Christmas.


Careful analysis of recent weather trends, solunar and hydrologic tables and fuzz depth measurement on Wooly Bear caterpillars all point to December 13 as the day we can break out the short rods again—give or take 72 hours.


Safe ice on December 13 would match last year's safe date.


Several other proprietary considerations which can't be revealed have been plugged into the formula to arrive at this solid prediction. You can take it to the bank—just don't forget your ice spud and a rescue rope.


Professional meteorologists can be wrong more than 50 percent of their time and still keep their job. Don't think for a minute that working as an outdoor pundit for more than 44 years has emboldened a personal perception of expertise regarding the natural world.


In fact, the opposite is true. The more time you spend in the outdoors, the more you realize how little you truly know.


Considerable soul searching has revealed one absolute truth: I am a fisherman. This revelation carries considerable baggage. Fishermen are not born liars, but we learn quicker than all other segments of society with the exception of politicians, salesmen and lawyers.


Eventually, fishermen reach a point where they lie when the truth is better. Ironically, this character flaw enabled me to uncover a government plot to confiscate our guns last week.


I was at a boat ramp talking with federal game warden John Below when a flock of tundra swans passed overhead. This encounter prompted Stowe to recall a recent encounter on Horicon marsh in which Below was interrogating an elderly hunter who had mistakenly shot at and wounded a trumpeter swan—a serious offense.


Below said the hunter confessed when told Martha Stewart went to prison for lying to a federal officer—not for insider trading. Lying to a federal officer is a felony. Felons aren't allowed to possess firearms.


Although the thought that somebody would shoot an endangered species was troubling, the knowledge that the government feels justified in confiscating guns from an entire class of Americans—fishermen —sends a chill down my spine.


Like many in federal-law enforcement, Warden Below was both professional and humorless. He glared at my contention that merely talking to a fisherman constitutes entrapment. Fishermen can't help the fact that we feel compelled to lie.


He got downright steely-eyed when I told him all the trumpeter swans I've shot were clean kills because I still use lead shot.


If I see Below coming across the ice on Dec. 13, he'll find easy access to my fishing license and all my gear. But for once I'll exercise my Constitutional right to remain silent.

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