Early the morning of January 13, 2011, I found one of my favorite great blue herons standing on the iced-over water behind our home along the shores of Raymond’s Gut, the narrow body of water, that snakes into the Croatan marshes just up the river from Swansboro, North Carolina.
The great blue heron didn’t look very happy as I watched him that morning. I even made a movie of his efforts on the ice. The reason the movie is set to start so far into it is that for the first couple of minutes the heron was more bewildered than anything. He/she hardly moved. When I saw the great blue think about trying to get a fish through the ice, I decided that I would try to help out the reigning king of the marsh.
Just before 3:00 PM, I got the skiff ready and tried to get it off the lift to break a channel into the gut leading out into the White Oak River. We have been having some really low tides, and in spite of the time I chose for my mission being within an hour of high tide on the river, the combination of heavy ice and low water made me give up on my first try.
A little after 4 PM, we had picked up a few inches of water. The great blue heron was feeding in a small open pocket of open water just up the gut and had been joined by a second one.
The second try on the boat was the charm, I managed to get off the lift and head out on my ice breaking mission. I found that backing up was not very easy. Backing pushed the ice sheet instead of breaking it.
Once I got going forward, I made it down around our day dock to the point where you turn and go out to the White Oak. The trip was a noisy, slow one, and it was an unusual experience even though the ice was not very thick. Fortunately it is very rare to have even that much ice in our inlet.
I decided not to push my luck and turned around where there was a six feet circle of ice free water that gave me just enough maneuvering room for our 20 ft skiff.
The trip back to our dock let me widen the channel, and turning round to get back on the lift also crushed a lot of ice. I suspect it will freeze over lightly tonight, but I plan to go after it earlier in the day tomorrow so perhaps the great blue herons will have a better day fishing.
More pictures of my adventure are located at this Picasa Web Album.