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Golfers outnumber ice anglers in warm North Dakota

January 05, 2012 at 10:11 AM

The Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Record-breaking warmth continues to blanket the Dakotas, enabling people to grab their golf clubs instead of shovels but causing worries for those who prefer fishing poles.

High temperature records were broken or tied Wednesday in the North Dakota cities of Bismarck, Williston, Jamestown and Fargo, and the South Dakota cities of Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Mitchell, Yankton, Aberdeen and Huron, along with some smaller communities, the National Weather Service reported. Most of the record temperatures were in the 50s. Rapid City hit 62 degrees.

More records were poised to fall Thursday, with the forecast promising temperatures once again in the 50s and 60s.

Todd Heitkamp, a meteorologist in Sioux Falls, told KOKK radio that he grew up in the region and has worked for the weather service since 1994, and can’t remember a winter like this.

“It’s one of those winters that I think a lot of people are going to remember in years to come,” he said.

Jimmy Taeger, a weather service meteorologist in Bismarck, told The Associated Press that the jet stream that normally dips down into the Upper Midwest this time of year is staying to the north, keeping the common blasts of arctic air in Canada and allowing warmer air to move in from the Rockies. South Dakota State Climatologist Dennis Todey and Sioux Falls meteorologist Chris Jansen told The Daily Republic newspaper that a lack of snow on the ground is helping maintain the mild temperatures.

Temperature records aren’t the only ones in jeopardy. The latest date for freeze-up on Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River in North Dakota is Jan. 16, in 2000. It will take some “cold, cold weather” to keep that record from falling, Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Linda Phelps told The Bismarck Tribune.

Anglers wary of the warm temperatures and resulting weak ice have been busy moving ice houses off lakes. Agencies such as the National Weather Service in North Dakota and South Dakota’s Game, Fish and Parks Department are cautioning anglers about the danger.

The South Dakota city of Mobridge was contemplating scrapping an annual ice fishing tournament.

“It’s an ice fishing tournament, so there has to be ice,” Chamber of Commerce director Michele Harrison told The Capital Journal newspaper.

Jon Flack, a student at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, told the Rapid City Journal that he still plans to fish — but from shore.

“It’s January, and I’m fly fishing,” he said.

Many recreationists in the Dakotas have been heading to the links for a round of golf, another unusual winter activity.

“It’s interesting to see the people that are getting out of work a little early and calling me to see, you know, ‘Hey, I might be coming out to play today, just have to see if I can get off work,’” Rapid City golf professional Jason Young told KEVN-TV. “And that’s kind of an interesting dynamic, to see who wants to use their holiday vacation this early in the year.”

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