As I write, the temperature is a balmy 39 degrees as we head firmly into mid-January.

But there is hope, if you're an ice fisherman.

Many waters have already offered safe, albeit iffy in some spots, ice conditions. And the brief warmup is expected to be followed by a serious cold snap, one without the snow that can hinder ice formation and create sloppy ice conditions even when there's plenty of thickness.

So it looks like, unlike last winter, we're going to have a real ice fishing season – the kind that stretches well into March and offers plenty of opportunities to hit the hard water, often in complete and total comfort if the wind isn't showing itself.

In the North Country, ice fishing is often much more than a fishing outing. It's a social event that brings many folks out of their homes in the dead of winter to meet, eat and catch a few fish as well. Even non-anglers often look forward to the hard-water season, as they would a night out – or in this case a day out – on the town.

Places like Franklin Falls Flow, Lake Colby, and Connery Pond typically serve as gathering places as much as fishing hot spots during the winter. On Colby's sheltered bays, mini-villages of ice shanties pop up, and anglers make regular visits to ply the waters for perch and trout, but are undoubtedly looking for landlocked salmon. And when they're not fishing, they're chatting with their neighbors and producing an on-ice smorgasbord that makes for great eating when the fish don't seem to be.

There are two basic types of ice fishing, one which lends itself to socialization and the other which doesn't. Myself? I'm generally a jig fisherman, preferring to run and gun on the ice in search of perch, then focusing on a hole and jigging up as many fish as I can. It makes for some productive days and great fish fries at home, but doesn't offer a lot of time for chit-chat.

The other, however, is tip-up fishing, when you bait your rig (usually with a minnow or smelt), set the tip-up then simply sit back and wait for the flag to fly, signifying a bite. On the good-weather days, and especially when someone has brought along a propane stove and some venison from the recently concluded deer season or simply burgers and hot dogs, it's a great day to enjoy some time on the ice under the guise of fishing. Landlocks are the typical target, although setting a series of tip-ups with smaller minnows can keep you running when the perch are on the feed.

This winter, it appears as if there will be many opportunities to walk on water. The fishing will often be great. The eating sometimes even better.

That's the way it is during a typical winter in the Lake Placid region. And whether you're a serious angler or simply someone looking to see what it's all about, you should get out on one of our many top-notch waters.

Bring along your fishing gear. And your appetite.