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In most years this would be a discussion of the ice conditions on area lakes: which lakes have thick ice and are safe, what is being caught through the ice and where the ice fishing tournaments are on the area lakes. In fact, a friend went shore fishing this past weekend and said he caught a couple of nice fish at Beck Lake.

This unseasonable weather is great for a lot of folks and a problem for those who make a living on winter activities, but there is another aspect of this kind of winter that affects anyone who uses the lakes. That is evaporation, and it goes under the radar for most people.

Every year brings concern about lake water levels from Lake Michigan to the Skokie Lagoons, and mild winters have a serious impact on spring and summer water levels. Lake Michigan water levels vary 12 to 18 inches on a normal basis and have seen drops as large as 30+ inches in a year. The Lake Michigan watershed gets its water from Lake Superior and therefore is dependent on good winter snows and spring rains in the Lake Superior basin and northern Wisconsin to refill the lakes each spring.

This mild winter will not cause much of the lake to freeze over, and that will let millions of gallons of water each day evaporate from the lake. The mild weather that has been felt all the way up north, with below-average snowfall in Minnesota and northern Wisconsin, will translate into smaller-than-normal spring runoffs in the lakes and lower lake levels this spring. Snowfall and spring rains have very little effect on Lake Michigan since the reversal of the flow of the Chicago River. It used to run water into the lake; now it runs spring water and snow water downstream to the Mississippi River.

Here’s hoping for a return to a more normal Midwest winter to save some of this water. Until next week, keep a tight line.

Contact Dick at hookedonfishing@comcast.net.