March 27, 2009: Opinicon Lake is clear of ice in the area of the Locks out to the row of islands which separate the bay from the main lake.  The water is very low.  The ferry at the Isthmus is in regular use to judge from the tracks, and the ice is weakening, though no navigation through to the Elbow is possible yet because of the ice.  I can’t speculate as to when the ice will go out, but travel and work on the ice are pretty much out of the question from here on in.

March 20, 2009: We finished sheeting the dock in Newboro this morning, and none too soon.  Yesterday’s task was to haul 150 2 X 6″ planks across 100′ of ice to the dock frame.  Walking was generally solid in the open, but we had to build a bridge of planks near shore.  Beneath the piles the ice was weak in some places, non-existent in others.  A cutoff from a  3 X 14″ pine plank went right through apparently solid ice when it was dropped about three feet and hit on a corner.  Nevertheless, the ice held out long enough for us to complete the dock.

Vehicles on the ice now in this area?  Crazy.

Would I still walk on it?  Yes, with precautions against falling through.

March 4, 2009: We’ve spent the last two days driving pilings for my friend’s new dock on Newboro Lake.  The ice is strong and thick out from shore, though I put a foot through at one point as I moved from the sloping ice on shore to the flat part.  Water levels seem to have dropped steadily over the last two weeks.  We had to deal with top water on the ice because a neighbouring boathouse’s bubbler seems to come on in mid-afternoon, pumping its  flow onto the ice above.

Nevertheless we were able to work with three tractors and a couple of trucks on the ice in fairly close proximity and there was no sign of movement in the ice.  Two of the posts we sank partially the day before were frozen so solidly into the ice that we couldn’t break them out today, even though we pounded on them repeatedly with the bucket of an 85 hp tractor.  Unless we had left the piles on bedrock the afternoon before and not realized it, the grip of the ice on those 5 1/2″  steel posts remains a mystery.

February 20, 2009: The dogs seemed to  have decent sledding on the three inches of snow cover on the ice of Newboro Lake.  We watched some of the teams on the home stretch of Saturday’s race and the dogs seemed tired, but in no distress from the footing.  We drilled a lot of  holes on Saturday.  The ice still seems thick and strong in the quiet parts of the lake.

February 15, 2009: It was Ice Fishing Derby day today on Newboro Lake.  Hundreds of pickup trucks and SUVs descended upon the lake and seemed to drive everywhere, though most of the owners were no doubt locals with a lot of experience on the ice.  The ice didn’t look all that good, with big black patches showing through the otherwise gray surface, and many, many “air holes” where the runoff from the melt last week made its way back under the crust.  These look dangerous, but when I drilled into one I discovered three inches of hard ice, then a couple of inches of slush before the base layer underneath.  Locals told me that very little water is running into the lake at Bedford Mills, and the bulk of the flow in winter runs through Bedore’s Creek and down the other side of Scott Island, so the current’s not that big a factor right now.  I certainly wouldn’t want to drive through the elbow or by the ferry to Scott Island at the Isthmus, but the rest seems pretty good going right now.

I hope they get some snow by next weekend for the sled dog races at Newboro and Chaffey’s Locks.  We saw that for the first time last year and it’s well worth a look.

February 6, 2009: A drive around to ice fishing hotspots today yielded discouraging news.  According to snowmobilers Brad and Danny Wilson of Chaffey’s Locks, virtually no lakes are currently travelable away from plowed tracks because of slush and deep snow.  I drilled two holes on Newboro Lake and one on The Big Rideau and all showed ice deeper than 24″, but the snow accumulation is such that only snowmobiles can travel freely, and they are at great risk of getting mired in patches of slush.

While driving on a plowed track on Newboro Lake today I felt my truck wobbling in a manner consistent with a vehicle on very thin ice — I must have passed over a large puddle of slush beneath a crust of hard ice.  Surely enough, I soon came upon the tracks of a previous vehicle which had broken through the thin ice into the slush below, but presumably had had enough momentum to regain the surface.  I parked close to shore and walked part-way back to the danger zone to drill a hole, but I hit only solid ice where I drilled.

The Big Rideau seemed solid on its well-established ice roads, but I didn’t go off them.

There were no fish.  Neither were there any recent tracks on Indian or Rock Lakes, save for some foot traffic close to the cottages on Rock.  Buck and Devil Lakes, as well, have virtually no tracks from traffic.  A lone cross country skier set out onto Devil Lake without difficulty.

January 19, 2009: We’re just warming up after a week of cold weather.  While I don’t know about areas with current, as ice strength there is determined by current, the rest of the ice should be pretty good in the calm areas.  Snow cover has become a factor in limiting movement on the ice until it waters up and freezes to reduce the accumulation.

Saturday, January 10, 2009 In the harbour area of Newboro Lake today we drilled a series of holes near the shore. Each was a bit over 12″ in depth. For convenience we had parked our trucks about fifty feet apart and a couple of lengths onto the ice. A guy in a pickup came off the lake and drove between the trucks to reach the ramp. The ice crunched a bit under the weight, but held firm. I also noticed a pickup truck with plow backing across Portland Harbour, presumably after starting a road out to where the locals keep their ice fishing shacks.

Tuesday, 6 January, 2009 I took these shots at the ferry landing looking from the mainland toward Scott Island, between Chaffey’s Locks and Newboro. Snowmobilers often travel this channel without realizing the effect that a bit of current has on the ice accumulation.

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