Fishing in shirtsleeves in January was unheard of in northeast South Dakota until recently.
Two Webster anglers succumbed to the itch to do something unique and fished from a boat Jan. 5 in open water on Swan Lake south of Webster on the Day/Clark county line.
"Temperatures in January are usually minus-20 degrees, not 53 degrees," said Larry Baumgarn, 56. "Fishing is best when the ice goes off in the spring. The ice went off Swan Lake the first of January, so we figured fishing should be good. Doug Johnson and I looked at each other and said, 'let's go.'"
The anglers checked out Lynn, Horseshoe and Swan lakes and decided Swan Lake offered the easiest access.
"I've never launched a boat in mid-winter before," Baumgarn said. "It was warmer that day than some days I've fished in the spring."
The south one-third of Swan Lake was open, and the men chopped ice nearly 20 yards from shore to get the boat in the lake and then slowly cut through ice with the boat for 30 yards until they hit open water. The lake was open an area of a half-mile by a quarter of a mile, and the deepest water was 19 feet.
The anglers used an electric trolling motor and worked chartreuse jigs with a No. 2 hook tipped with a minnow. Eight northern pike took the bait.
"We fished like we do in the spring," Baumgarn said. "We marked a ton of fish over an old roadbed."
The anglers were joined later by Baumgarn's son, Matthew, and grandson, Gage, 3, also from Webster. Gage had a special experience of catching a 2-pound northern.
"It was so funny because Gage was using an ice fishing rod, and that northern bent his rod in a 'U,' Baumgarn said. He kept yelling, 'I have a big one, a really big one.' It was big compared to a perch caught in an ice house."
Northern mallards and several pairs of Canada geese flew over the anglers, adding to the enjoyment of the warm day.
Baumgarn said it probably will take two weeks of zero and subzero temperatures to get good and safe ice.
"The first ice is now probably honeycombed, so when it gets cold it will still not be good ice. On Jan. 5, I was simply more comfortable with a boat under my butt than a 5-gallon pail.
"God provided a beautiful sunset for us to look at when we were done fishing. We'll probably never experience this redneck fun again."