Anglers find ideal ice fishing conditions at Waterford Ponds

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Anglers enjoyed a nice weekend for ice fishing on the Waterford Ponds.

This weekend was mild with the occasional sunny break. Meanwhile, several weeks of hard winter weather have built up a solid layer of ice, allowing anglers to venture most anywhere in the former quarry network.

Rick Norman, of Renton, likes the convenience of the ponds. In contrast to Long Point Bay, anglers don’t have to venture out a great distance to find deep water. The water at the Waterford North Conservation Area is nearly 25 feet deep in places near the shoreline.

And due to free public access, Norman says the price is right.

Norman noted that leisure and recreational opportunities have been limited since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared last year. He isn’t surprised to hear that ice-fishing has been popular this winter, lending itself as it does to social distancing in a well-ventilated, outdoor environment.

“With this lockdown, you have to stay to yourself anyway,” said Norman, who fishes solo but will visit on occasion with anglers nearby.

“It’s been slow today (Sunday). I lost a pike but a guy over there got a few. This is my last day for it. I always slide what I catch back under the ice – catch-and-release. If I don’t catch anything, it’s still a good day.”

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The Waterford Ponds boast a good selection of fish for an inland waterway. Avid angler Dennis Doyle, of Hamilton, enumerated them: Bass, perch, bluegill, crappie, pumpkinseed and some truly prodigious northern pike.

Doyle caught a smaller example of the latter this weekend — one measuring about 18 inches – but pointed out there are some trophy-size examples in the ponds ready to put up a fight. Doyle said some are as long as four feet and will tip the scale at 20 pounds or better.

“There are some monsters in here,” Doyle said. “Some absolute giants.”

Northern pike is a top predator and good eating in the hands of a skilled cleaner.

Many anglers bypass the experience because they’ve never learned to remove the dreaded Y-bone – that part of the pike featuring hundreds of filament-like spines that make eating the fish a bother. Dozens of videos are available on the internet showing anglers how to overcome this problem.

Doyle keeps what he intends to eat. But by and large, he too subscribes to catch-and-release.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time I’m catch-and-release so my kids and grandkids can have at them too,” he said.

Ice fishing at the Waterford Ponds is convenient and productive on a good day. However, signage at the scene advises caution regardless of how cold the weather or how safe ice conditions might appear.

The ponds have been the scene of ice-fishing tragedies over the years, with some anglers going through the ice. Would-be anglers are advised to educate themselves about ice conditions and to only venture out when they are absolutely sure it will hold them.

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