Despite all the concerns about global warming and its manifold effects, most area anglers still relish stealing a day or two from winter's normal agenda.
Those occasional spells of unseasonably warm weather are the salve that helps many of us limp through the bone-breaking cold days of January. And to the anglers' delight, a warm and windless spell arrived during the second week of January, sending temperatures to near record highs.
There was a hitch, however. In late December and early January, winter had already worked some of its damage on area waterways. All the lakes except Clinton and Melvern were frozen. The ice was too thick for boats to break, but not thick enough for even the most intrepid ice fisherman to traipse across.
In recent Januarys, when an icy wind didn't howl, many of us would venture to Coffey County Lake to catch a variety of species in the plume of hot water that jets out of the nuclear power plant on the lake's eastern shore.
In this tepid water, we consistently caught scores of crappie, white bass, wipers, channel catfish, smallmouth bass and largemouth bass. As we hauled each species into the boat, we fantasized that we were in another clime, where all kinds of fishes were in shallow water and easy to catch from December through February.
Since Sept. 11, however, anglers haven't been allowed to probe Coffey's lairs. Rumors have it that it will re-open in March, but by then spring will be in the offing, and our need for a winter venue will have waned.
Thus in mid-January, La Cygne Lake's heated water became the only alternative for those who wanted to fish for species other than crappie and white bass in the deep confines of Clinton and Melvern.
There is a problem, however, with La Cygne. The fishing often becomes irksome in January and February, being good one day and horrid for the next five.
Nevertheless, Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence and I traveled to La Cygne on a balmy mid-January day with faint hopes of catching a potpourri of species in shallow water particularly a wiper of grand proportions.
On this outing the sky was overcast with a 10 mph southwest wind. The temperature climbed from a morning low of 23 degrees to an afternoon high of 62. The water temperature was 64 degrees at the hot-water outlet while several other spots were covered with ice.
We began by working a stretch of rip-rap that was buffeted by a breeze and 54-degree water. At this traditional wiper lair, we employed spinning outfits spooled with 10-pound line and 1/4-ounce jigheads and three-inch shad-colored Bass Assassins.
We fished the Bass Assassins as if they were crankbaits, making long casts to the water's edge and reeling them at moderate and steady pace. To our pleasant surprise, we caught 12 big white bass and a six-pound, six-ounce wiper in the first 45 minutes.
That auspicious beginning, however, didn't last.
For the rest of the day we probed a variety of coverts and a multitude of depths, employing a medley of lures and retrieves, with minimal results.
By the time the setting sun cut an array of pearl, apricot and lavender ribbons across the western horizon, we had caught only 10 more big white bass and two three-pound largemouth bass.
Once again, to our chagrin, La Cygne was an enigma. Perhaps by February's end we will have deciphered its riddles.