CLEAR LAKE | A fisherman was greeted by a furry friend while ice fishing on Clear Lake earlier this week.
Clayton Will, an avid fisherman from Madrid, posted a YouTube video of his encounter with a muskrat on Jan. 22, while he was ice fishing on Clear Lake. The muskrat is seen chilling at the surface of their fishing hole, and then shoots back down into the water.
Will said via email Thursday that he was fishing on the north side of the lake with his son, Chris, in one of Kevan Paul's ice houses, when the muskrat appeared.
"I was waiting for him with my camera the next time he returned," Will said about capturing the video. "Chris told me not to get too friendly with him which was good advice!"
Scott Grummer, a local fisheries biologist with the state's Department of Natural Resources, said the incident is a sign of the high number of muskrats in neighboring Ventura.
The marsh there was recently drained, he said, meaning the creatures have had to look elsewhere and to live comfortably and to eat. Sometimes, this leads them to near Clear Lake's shorelines, which may cause ice fishermen seeing them in their fishing holes.
Muskrats are not dangerous, according to Grummer.
"There’s really no danger, the best thing is to leave them alone," he said. "It’s not any different than having a mouse in the house, it’s not waves of them you’re going to have … anytime we have the late winter thaws, they’re bound to be around."
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Mike Platts, an employee at Crazy Minnow Bait Shop in Clear Lake, said incidents like Clayton's "happen more than you think."
"There have been several of them popping up in ice houses," Platts said.
He also described muskrats as harmless rodents, but added they will actively seek any wet living conditions.
"If they find a pot of water ... they'll definitely take advantage," he said. "They're not destructive, it's just the way they are."
Both Platts and Grummer say various environmental conditions can impact where muskrats tend to live and feed, from weather cycles to differing water levels.
Platts said muskrats feeding on and near the lake has been relatively common the past few years. He added, however, that given multiple factors, it's difficult to predict the behavior of them on a year-to-year basis.
"It's like looking in the rearview mirror while driving down the highway, and not knowing where you're going," Platts said. "It's tough to say."
Will, who regularly posts YouTube videos of his Iowa fishing experiences, said the unexpected visitor was a great touch to a fine day of fishing.
"They (Kevan Paul) had the holes drilled out and the heat turned on so we just had to step out of the truck and start fishing," he said of his experience. "The muskrat just added to our memorable day."