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My ice-off prediction is …

by | Mar 9, 2024

I’m not eligible for the Ferris Business Network’s Lake Nipissing Ice Off contest prize package, but I have some juicy insight into the long-time tradition of guessing when the last frozen piece melts into spring. If I wrote one story I wrote 10 of them during my 18 years at The Nugget.

Now I can just link to their coverage of the new contest organized by the West Ferris group and found on at Entry is free to take a guess, one per adult, with a large package of donated items as the prize. It will be awarded by drawing a ballot from all those who pick the right date. Guesses have to be made seven days before the ice is declared off to be eligible.

Keith Campbell Photo, Lake Nipissing, Kinsmen Beach on March 5

As far as my prognosticating skills go, I’ve always been fairly close to the mark but only got it right once. For the record, I was never betting or part of a pools, at least not when it was left to me to declare the date. It’s a big responsibility, there were very popular pools at local restaurants like Demarco’s Confectionary and Pine Hill Variety, both missed now.

The Nugget has been making the declaration for more than 100 years, often in concert with an air craft company or independent pilot offering fly-over confirmation. That’s why the Ferris group left it to them.

Mind you, there were years it was loosely organized and bad luck made things difficult too, and that meant a declaration could be off a day or three from reality.

More than once, for example, a pilot would report ice floating in a bay on a Saturday but foul weather precluded getting up to confirm until days later, leaving it to the reporter to be arbiter. I’m pretty sure they almost forgot to do it one spring not long after I left.

This year could break the April 3, 1945 record for earliest Lake Nipissing was free of ice. Meanwhile, there was no ice April 8 in 2010 and April 10 in 2021.

It sure proved to be dicey for some ice hut operators and hard water enthusiasts who pushed their jigging luck to the max. It wasn’t necessarily thin ice they were on, there were challenging cracks after big shifts in temperature, and there was severe melting under heated shacks leaving gaping holes.

The Facebook groups had a field day with photos of trucks pointed rear up and videos of shacks blowing across icy bays. Here’s the North Bay Fishing Club LINK, it’s a public one. The Nipissing Ice Fishing Board is private, but you can join.

snowmobile and ice hut sinking in lake

What’s wrong with this picture?

As a co-chair of the ice-off initiative with Lori Laporte, I can’t be part of anybody winning anything. But I don’t see anything wrong with giving public advice on the matter. If I was predicting, my instinct says 2024 will be break the April 3 record. And it’s raining as I type this missive on March 9. You might want to make sure your guess is registered in time to count, if the lucky day is March 31, Easter Sunday, your ballot must be dated March 24.

To see the list of prizes and sponsors, check out the contest page and here’s the rules.

While you’re here, visit the website and sign up for the free Essentials digital newsletter, it gets sent to your email inbox every Tuesday and Thursday at 4 p.m. I’m the Echo Network’s content director and newsletter editor.

Dave Dale
Dave Dale

Writer, photographer and proud father. My mom’s family is from the Soo with its Algoma Highlands, dad hailed from Cobden in the Ottawa Valley and I spent my teen years in Capreol. Summers were at the beach on the Vermillion River and winters at ‘The Rink.’ Born in East York but Toronto never was my thing. Ever since a kid looking out the window on long trips, I imagined living on the highway in a little house with a big yard and trees growing all around me.

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