This past year saw the water in Lake Michigan at the lowest level in its history. Lake levels have been tracked since the early 1900s, and the graph looks like an EKG chart, with ups and downs throughout the years until 1999. Before that year, one could draw a red line through the middle of the humps and have an average lake depth of 579 feet above sea level, but suddenly in 1999 the lake level dropped 3 feet and has been dropping steadily since then. The average lake depth since 1999 has been 575.5 feet.

Evaporation is one factor in this declining water level. Climate change is also a factor, and the two are related. Scientific studies have shown that the highest evaporation rates occur in late fall and early winter when we have the greatest variances between air temperature and water temperature.

This winter, for the first time in many years, the Great Lakes have approximately 97 percent ice coverage. One would think that would help lake levels, because the ice cap prevents evaporation. However, to create the ice this past fall, the evaporation rate was greater than normal. This cooled the Lake, thus creating the ice cap, so it became a wash. On the plus side, the ice will remain longer this year, and that will slow down evaporation this spring. With the big winter snow melt coming up also in the spring in the Great Lakes basin, there may be a gain in the water level. That gain in the lake’s water level may be the only good thing to come from this year’s polar vortex, and the prediction is that it will be short-lived.

But with a little more – and a little cooler – water this coming season, better fishing may be anticipated on Lake Michigan.

The ice fishing reports have been pretty spotty the last week or so. The guys fishing the Wisconsin lakes have been reporting slow conditions, especially on Lake Winnebago. Lake Geneva has been reporting lake trout being caught in 85 to 100 feet of water – a long way down, but at least the fish are nice-sized.

For those who do not like ice fishing, Busse Woods still has open water, and the bass are biting. One has to troop through a bunch of snow to get to them, and they’re not big, but they are biting jig and plastic combos.

That’s all for now. Until next time … keep a tight line.

Contact Dick at hookedonfishing@comcast.net.