Once the world freezes over into a monochromatic scene of slate blue, the ice anglers begin to venture out of their hibernation to stake a place on Mosquito Creek Reservoir.
"To tell the truth, there ain't nothing better than fish through the ice," said Bill Minier, 52, of Atwater.
The cold water, he said, makes the meat firmer. He's been ice fishing since he was a child, learning from his father and grandparents. Later Thursday afternoon, he packed the handmade sled passed on to him from another relative with a hand drill, lures and other essential supplies.
"It is crazy, but if you have a good shanty and heater, it isn't bad at all," he said.
Dragging his sled onto the ice Thursday, he headed off in search of the perfect spot to position himself, somewhere seven to ten feet deep which he gauges with a depth meter.
Minier will be fishing for pleasure. Sunday, competitive fishers will be hitting the reservoir in hopes of scoring it big in the the fifth annual IceFishOhio Mosquito Lake Pan-fish Tournament. After two ice-less years, a large turnout of anglers is anticipated for the competition.
What: IceFishOhio Mosquito Lake Pan-fish Tournament
When: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday on Mosquito Creek Reservoir
Check-in: 6 to 7:30 a.m. at Causeway Sporting Goods, 2233 Greenville Road, Mecca
Final weigh-in: 3:10 p.m.
Fee: $75, with a $10 late fee for those registering on the day of the event (cash only on Sunday)
"I'd be very surprised if we had less than 30 teams, I'd like to think there will be more like 40 to 50, but we'll take up to 75," event planner Dave Hoheisel said.
The last two tournaments drew more than 40 teams each. They also provided a substantial amount of economic impact, part of the reason the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau is partnering to present the event.
"It's a good opportunity for us to not only promote the area but to show off our jewel of a lake even if it's covered in ice," said Stephanie Sferra of the bureau.
At a walleye tournament held last April, the area saw $6,000 in direct and indirect sales, she said. Even the smallest purchase adds to the area's economy, she said.
"Your going to have an economic impact. You'll have people staying in hotels and eating at restaurants," she said.
As president of IceFishOhio.com, Hoheisel said ice fishing is the fastest growing winter sport. In the winter season the site has about 8,000 unique visitors per month. There are different draws that attract people to the sport.
"I think it is something to do in the winter, if you don't ski and you're an outdoor person. It's a community sport too," he said.
Often newbies online will use the forums on IceFishOhio to connect with one another for fishing meet-ups or to learn new tricks of the trade. Advancements in electronics allow anglers to watch as fish approach their lures.
"Its actually like playing a video game. I don't think people know about the excitement of it," Hoheisel said.
The competition to see who can catch the best 15 pan-fish will begin on the reservoir at 8 a.m. and run to 3 p.m. Check-in at Causeway Sporting Goods, 2233 Greenville Road (state Route 88), Mecca, which is hosting the event, will take place from 6 to 7:30 a.m., with the final weigh-in held at 3:10 p.m.
Those wishing to enter can download an application from the Mosquito Lake forum page on IceFishOhio.com or contact Hoheisel at 614-361-5548. Completed forms can be turned in to Causeway Sporting Goods. The tournament fee will be $75 with a $10 late fee for those registering on the day of the event. If entering at Causeway Sporting Goods, teams must pay in cash.