A Year With No Ice

By Alice Maggiore

February 9, 2012 Updated Feb 10, 2012 at 7:47 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) A winter with very thin ice makes it hard to hold events that depend on a thick coating. In its almost 40-year history, organizers of the Almost-Annual Crappie Derby have never seen ice conditions quite so bad. Other places were able to make do, but not without rearranging some plans.

Normally early February finds Dorchester Park snowy, noisy, and full of anglers.

"This whole park would be full. You'd hear motors running from snow mobiles and ice loggers," says David Hughes, Coordinator of the Almost-Annual Crappie Derby. "Everybody has a good time."

But this winter isn't one for crowds.

"I can't remember a year like this at all," says Hughes.

A year without enough ice to support some 4,000 fishermen. With just 5 inches between the crappies and the reels, organizers had no choice but to cancel.

"We thought about postponing it," says Hughes. That's what they've done in years' past. "But the weather models said we wouldn't be going to get that much cold ice. Another thing, if you start postponing into February, the sun starts getting higher in the sky. Anything you gain at night, if you get cold nights, you lose during the day because of the sunshine factor."

One week later, the ice in Delaware County was just thick enough for the folks at Hanford Mills to harvest.

If it were any less than 6 inches, no saw would slice the surface.

"I think if we were at 4 inches of ice, we wouldn't be cutting ice," says Bob Adair. "We want to keep it safe."

The goal is to cut one hundred 60-pound cubes, but is that enough to fill the ice house?

Last year, blocks were bigger, and easier to move.

"We've been having 40, 50 degree weather. It just isn't going to maintain good, solid ice," says Adair.

Fewer feet are allowed out on the slippery plain.

"Had the ice been thicker, we would have had children out there cutting. It's a lot of fun for them," says Wayne Ford.

The kids may still get a chance, if warmth makes way for winter.

"We are going to make a second effort if the weather allows and more ice forms," Wayne says.

"Maybe we can get our ice house full," says Adair.

For now, all are waiting on Mother Nature to lay a solid foundation, or at least provide an arctic blast.

The Oxford Lions' Perch Derby at Chenango is scheduled for Saturday, February 18.

Organizers are drilling holes in the ice, checking its thickness at least once a week.

Right now, the lake is about 8 inches thick. It's about 4 inches shy of the 12 inch requirement.

The Lions Club expects to know by Sunday, February 12, whether or not there's enough ice to fish.