Last week a huge warm front had people in the Great White North (aka Sandy Lake area) nervously chewing their fingernails. Unfortunately, the winter road in it's 2011 infancy was forced to be shut down due to unseasonable weather. Temperature in NW Ontario peaked at a balmy 40 degrees and caused the once solid road to turn to mush. Flashbacks to 2010 quickly arose, where a tanker was lost to the Flanagan river after a brief warm spat. Freight companies that were hauling thousands of pounds of desired fuel and freight didn't hesitate to postpone shipments and patiently wait for cold weather to return.
To say the ice road is a "life line" to northern communities is an understatement. These communities rely heavily on the ice highway, and cold temperatures for that matter, for cheaper transportation of goods and fuel. Building materials for housing, fuel for communities generators, airplane fuel and vehicles are some of the most important goods transported on the highway. At current costs of $1 per pound for flying goods, a simple one dollar can of soup instantly costs $2 when placed in an airplane. Furthermore, this is the one time of year where northern families are able to drive off the reserve and stock up on groceries among other goods. With gas pricing at $8.65 a gallon, milk costing 10.99 a gallon, soda at $24 a 12 pack and steaks costing around 15 bucks a pound for simple sirloin most families save a considerable amount with just one trip. Also, this is the only time of year people can purchase a vehicle. Just imagine driving 10 hrs to reach the nearest grocery store. And I thought the Target five miles away is a long haul!
Fortunately, cold weather has returned to the north country. The tankers are once again transporting goods northbound to Sandy, North Spirit and Deer Lake. Trucks utilizing giant augers three feet in diameter have been testing and flooding the Berens River and North Spirit Lake for quality ice. Also, as I mentioned in my previous blog, helicopters with radio imagery are now able to determine ice thickness just hovering over the water for a short period of time.
Personally I am ready for spring. Come to think of it, didn't the ground hog see his shadow? Which means winter will be over in three days. Oh, I hope Punxsutawny Phil was correct. On a similar note, the spring thaw in the Big Hook area should be much different from last 2010, due to the fact there is ample amount of snow. This means we should expect high water levels this spring. I like high water in the spring, mostly because the fish are drawn to the gushing rapids like a moth to a flame. I realize it is still at least two months before I have the chance to cast a line in Canadian waters, but just mentioning spring fishing makes me want to rummage through the closet and prepare my gear. Maybe in the next blog I'll discuss some spring fishing tactics.
Hope the winter is treating everyone well. Remember to practice CPR (catch, photo, release).
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