I have several memories from my rookie years as an ice angler. One that remains vivid is the time I saw a lobster.
Let me explain.
The scene took place on a bright, sunny day in March. A group of family and friends corralled on a local lake for a multi-species bonanza. We camped out on a mid-basin hump, deployed set-lines, and soaked up the sunshine.
Within the first hour one angler approached me, offering sunscreen.
"You better put some of this on or you're going to burn," he said.
"Come on? You're pulling my leg," I answered, trying to suss out the seriousness of his recommendation.
"Tim, trust me on this. Sit on the ice all day without sunscreen and you'll burn. Put it on."
I took his advice and lathered on the 30 SPF.
Around 3 p.m. one guy in our party hooked into a big fish. A crowd gathered to watch the fight. Getting serious he pulled back the hood of his coat, exposing his face. To this day, I have never seen a face more red and sunburnt.
"Whoa! You look like a cooked lobster," said the joker of our group.
Poor guy, he figured that wearing a hood would protected him from the sun. He was wrong. The snow and ice reflected UV rays up under his hood and the brim of his ball cap giving him a terrible sunburn. And that is how I saw a lobster once when ice fishing.
Snow and ice keep days cool during late winter, but don't shortchange the sun's intensity. Plus, snow and ice reflect a high percentage of UV rays. This means you're at risk from being burnt from below as well as from above.
To stay protected, apply sunscreen on your face, ears, neck and hands before you leave in the morning and reapply often. You should also wear quality sunglasses with lenses that block 100 percent of UVA / UVB / UVC and harmful blue light. Covering skin is also important. This includes a hat, a neck warmer or a buff.
Late ice offers great fishing action, but be sun smart. Otherwise you risk coming home red-faced, looking like a lobster.