In Minnesota, ice fishing is a cherished pastime. Every winter, friends and families set up ice fishing shacks, drill a hole in the ice, and gather around small fires while they wait for a tug on their lines.
“It’s quite remarkable how connected many people are with the environment here in the winter,” says Lesley Knoll of the University of Minnesota.
Knoll researches how changing ice on lakes, ponds, and rivers affects cultural traditions.
As winters warm, lakes often freeze later, and the ice can be thin or unstable, so fishing on that ice can be dangerous.
Knoll’s research found that when temperatures are higher than about 25 degrees Fahrenheit, ice fishing tournaments are more likely to be called off.
For example, the winter of 2015 was unusually mild, and about one in five tournaments in central Minnesota was canceled.
Those cancellations disappoint participants. And they can harm the local economy, too.
“These tournaments, … as well as the individuals that go out ice fishing, bring tourism dollars to local communities that are often not as busy that time of year,” Knoll says.
So as ice fishing seasons get shorter, it’s not only anglers who will feel the loss.