Micro-Season: “Fish Rise From The Ice” (2023)

We have entered the micro-season of “Fish Rise From the Ice”. This is the third micro-season of the mini-season First Spring.  All the micro-seasons within First Spring are:

These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai and are specific to Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others.  No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for your personal exploration of the world around you. 

To celebrate this season, we will learn about how ice melts and then read seasonal haiku by Basho, Kerouac, Issa, and Buson. 

The Science Of Melting Ice

As we move into spring, the ice on the lakes, rivers, and streams begins to melt.  For the casual observer, a thawing pond might seem like a simple process.  But for some like Bob Dill and his fellow ice enthusiasts, the study of ice is serious business.  

Bob Dill lives in the Champlain Valley in Vermont.  He frequently accesses Lake Champlain for ice sailing and skating.  When he was the secretary of the International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association in the mid-80s he began writing articles about ice safety.  Since that time, he has expanded his study of lake ice and its properties into a comprehensive website called Lake Ice.  This website has everything you want to know about the formation and thawing of ice, potential ice-related hazards, and specialized ice gear.(2) 

 It is from his work that we learn about the factors that contribute to the thawing of ice.  

The Four Ways Ice Thaws

Ice can thaw in four different ways:

  1. Top Surface Melting: Top surface melting is when the top layer of ice begins to thaw.  This process is driven by warm winds.  Dill explains that a couple of inches of ice or more can melt on a 50-degree day when the winds are between 20-30 mph. This type of thawing is likely to create “drain holes” in the ice which can make the ice very weak.  
  2. Internal melting:  Internal melting is driven by sunlight.  Internal melting results in the slow loss of overall ice thickness.  Thin ice can sometimes be tricky to identify and, as a result, is very dangerous.   
  3. Under-ice Melting:  Under-ice melting is caused by water currents under the ice. It is common in places where streams and rivers enter lakes.  Under-ice melting is also common in shallow ponds when the sun is able to heat up the water below the ice.
  4.  Wind-driven rafting:  Wind-driven rafting happens when the ice is already weakened and then there are high winds. The ice breaks apart under high winds and is pushed over itself or onto the shore. Once the ice is pushed aside and there is open water, the high winds stir up the warmer water from the bottom of the lake creating more under-ice melting.

Eight Stages Of Ice Thaw

Besides noticing the ways that ice melts, Bob Dill has also outlined eight stages of ice thaw.  He does provide the disclaimer that his classification system is not something that is currently used beyond his website.  Nevertheless, this study of thawing ice provides us with helpful information about the process of melting. 

Stage 0Unthawed ice – At this stage the ice is solid and it is below freezing everywhere except below the ice.

Stage 1Cold hard ice with vapor figures. At this stage, there are signs of melting. Vapor figures are an indication of internal melting and refreezing. 

Stage 2The Puddle Stage:  In this stage, there are puddles of melted ice and rainwater on the surface of the ice.

Stage 3Drained Ice:  In this stage, the water that was collected in the puddle stage drains back into the lake through pores in the ice.  These pores are a result of internal melting.  The ice is unstable at this time.  You should remove any heavy objects from the ice and use a test pole as you are walking.

Stage 4The Weakening Phase:  In this stage of ice melt there has been continued surface and internal melting. The signs of internal melting are easily noticed.  

Stage 5 Rotten ice:  In this phase, the ice may be thick but it is weak.  Often you can punch a hole through the ice up to 6 inches thick with a test pole.  Rotten ice will barely hold up a single person.  

Stage 6Ice that will not support people on foot:  As the name of this stage suggests, it is unsafe for people to be walking on this ice.  Dill says that one of the main dangers here is that the ice may cycle through stages 4, 5, and 6 very quickly.  In the morning, the ice may have been at stage 4 (weakening) but could hold you up.  By midday, the ice may be at stage 6 or even stage 7, and it is very dangerous.  

Stage 7Ice that will not support people in a prone position when trying to get back on the ice.  At this stage, if you fall through the ice, it would be really hard to pull yourself back up.  The ice will keep breaking apart when you put weight on it.  

A Final Note on Thawing Ice

Dill points out that in one lake the ice might greatly vary in its stages of thaw.  You may be safe on one section, but in traveling to another you may come across weakened ice or rotten ice.  Therefore, it is important to always use caution when traveling on frozen waterways.  

If the study of ice interests you, check out Dill’s Lake Ice to learn more about “lake ice from a recreational perspective.”

Melting Ice And Fish 

After the ice that covers the lakes and ponds thaws a phenomenon known as “Lake Turnover” begins.(3)  Lake turnover is when the water at the bottom of the lake begins to mix with the water closer to the surface.  Lake turnover occurs both in the autumn and in the spring when the temperatures are shifting.

In spring turnover, the cyclical currents that are created by the warming of the deeper waters bring nutrient-dense matter back up to the surface.  The sunlight and warmer waters also brings all the dormant biological organisms back to life. 

With the increase in water temperature, available plant life, and microorganisms, the fish are drawn out of their deep water winter retreats and back to the surface.  Fishing is said to be very good at this time of year because the fish are hungry and active.(3) 

Ice by Rok Romih on Pexels.com
Ice by Rok Romih

Seasonal Haiku

In the document “The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words” Kenkichi Yamamoto tells us that thin ice and ice flows are spring kigo.  Thin Ice is specifically an early spring kigo (February or August depending on your hemisphere), whereas Ice Flows is a mid-spring kigo (March or September).  The World Kigo Database also provides melting ice, vanishing ice, and drifting ice as potential spring kigo.

With this in mind, let’s read some ice-related haiku.


melting away
the brush draws up the water
of a spring
(translated by Jane Reichhold)


Water in the birdbath
  –a film of ice
On the moon


ice melting--
in the threshold
early evening's moon
(translated by David G. Lanoue)
ice melting--
the mountain holy man's
noon sermon
(translated by David G. Lanoue)


Into the deep well drops the thin edging of ice-- cold!
(translated by Yuki Sawa)

Haiku Invitation

This week’s haiku invitation is to write a haiku or senryu that references melting ice or melting snow.  

Share your haiku in the comments below, or post on your own page and link back to this post.

I can’t wait to read what you write!  


  1. Dill, Bob, et al.  “How Lake Ice Thaws” Lake Champlain Committee
  2. Dill, Bob, et al. “Thawed Ice”. Lake Ice
  3. Balgooyen, Warren P. “Seasonal Magic: How Ice Out in Lakes and Ponds Helps Nourish Life”.  Edited by Matt Loosigian, Deb Avalon-King, and Christine Smith. Maine.gov
  4. Yamamoto, Kenkichi. “The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words”. Translated by Kris Young Kondo and William J. Higginson. Haiku Foundation
  5. “Ice (koori)”. World Kigo Database

Basho’s haiku was retrieved from Matsuo Bashō’s haiku poems in romanized Japanese with English translations. Jack Kerouac’s haiku were retrieved from Jack Kerouac’s Book of Haikus.   Issa’s haiku was retrieved from David G. Lanoue’s HaikuGuy.com. Buson’s haiku was retrieved from “Haiku of Yosa Buson Organized by Rōmaji, in alphabetical order; translated into English, French, Spanish” Terebess Asia Online (TAO).

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39 thoughts on “Micro-Season: “Fish Rise From The Ice” (2023)

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  1. Thanks Mark for such an interesting and informative post regarding the many different stages involved with ice melt: and, supported by such an array of inspirational haiku. Time to put my haiku thinking cap on.

    1. Hi Anita, Thank you very much for writing and sharing your work. Funny thing, I was just working on a haiku about rain hitting the window without much success. Glad to see you were able to put something together! I hope you have a good weekend and thanks again for joining the conversation.

      1. Hi Mark, it’s my immense pleasure to write and to share my haiku with you and with other haikuists on your platform. Thank you for inviting me and other haiku poets to join in the conversation. I am greatly inspired by your wonderful work , your quotes of Basho and other haiku masters and the fundamental importance you attach to kigo, the seasonal reference in a haiku poem. Thank you once more and happy weekend to you too.

    1. Your poems are so good they made me realize I needed to revise my own. Please let me know if this bothers you, and I’ll just use my original.

      1. Eavonka,
        I like them both, and both are good, but if I had to pick the one I prefer, it would probably be the second iteration as rising to the top has alliteration (rising/resentment). I tend to write several iterations of the same haiku (moment?), and often play with them long after I first write them. I don’t know if you remember my black ice haiku/senryu, bit I wrote about 3 or 4 iterations with that fragment and slipperiness of saying the wrong word at the wrong time. Having had all of the different ones rejected over time by nearly every journal I submitted it to, I posted it here. Even if no one else liked it (or the idea), I still did. TMI, though. ~Nan

      2. Yes, when I saw your poem with “to the surface” I immediately thought rising would work so much better! I love alliteration too.

        Yes, I adored your black ice poem. It is always so surprising what doesn’t get love from editors. But I agree that it is such fun to try lots of different variations.

        I love finding out about your writing process, btw.

      3. Hi Eavonka and Nan, Such a wonderful discussion about writing process! I think I write 20 or 30 different versions of the same haiku! I have even started writing the first version on paper and then switch to the computer so I can move the words around easier. Then I have to come back to it the next day to see if it still makes sense. Its a good day when I still like the ku’ the next day.

      4. Hi Mark,
        I am glad I am not alone in this writing the same haiku over and over until it feels right. Many of my poems are written first on paper before I commit them to the computer. I’d like to say that many of my haiku have been composed in the car and I write them down when I get to my destination. The best ones, of course, often get forgotten because of traffic or being late! 😉 Alas… Seriously, I do carry paper and pen with me or use my calendar or whatever paper is handy to write down my haiku. ~nan

      5. Some I write and never revise at all, I call those the magic moments. Others, I love and then when I read them the next day, I can’t stand them. These days I write all my haiku in the Notes on my phone so I can keep them organized. It’s likely I should be revising many more of my poems. 😂

      1. Thanks, Mark. That’s kind of you to say.

        We have our share of feral cats and with being a half a block from the river, they have learned to walk on the frozen/melting river and fish the shad who come to the surface this time of year. ~Nan

  2. Another lovely and educational poet – Thank you, Mark.

    I did my series on my locale and my observances; Please enjoy;
    Ku’s and Am. Sentence series

    I’ve also added some info about the critters I’ve got near me. I may have mentioned I’ve got a creek at the back border 😉

    We’ve been lucky here. No loss of power or snow. Just some rain and around 50F. The sun is trying to make an appearance. Though I’ve been told we might get some cold weather towards the end of the month.

    1. Hi Jules, Thanks so much for writing and all the information about the local critters. We had an ice storm today and a cold weekend ahead. Maybe spring will visit us in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully!

      1. I saw robins last week – can spring be far?

        Hope you still had power with your ice storm. Our weather has been reasonable during the day but dips below freezing – at least for the last few evening. Stay safe!

  3. thin ice
    our resentments float
    to the top

    I learn so much from you each week, Mark. I am so grateful for the education and for how I am then able to utilize it in my haiku/senryu. In particular, my understanding of kigo has grown so much, and I hope it translates to better poems.

    1. Hi Eavonka, I am so glad that you are enjoying these! I told someone recently that this is my self-constructed seminar in weather and haiku as I am also learning something new every week!

  4. Here are two from last year. Not exactly ice-melting specific but the effects of it. The second one is spaced and punctuated to emphasize the danger of melting ice, especially for this grandmother. 🙂 I’ve included links for the photos which are always a joy to find.
    Spring mud aroma
    Rust and rot, sour, salty, sweet
    Kids’ boots stuck in muck
    Wary elders tread
    probing pavement with their canes
    Spring melt? or black ice!

    1. Hi Mary Jo,
      Thanks for offering these two poems for the season! I really like the “wary elders” one with the extra spacing. My brain really struggles with writing things outside the prescribed formula so I enjoy poems that succeed in this.
      Thanks for the photos also!
      Have a good week!

  5. Your posts are always so amazingly detailed and beautifully presented, Mark. I love the formula you use and the way you finish with some evocative poetry. Sorry it’s taken me so long to visit you! Hope you’re well 🙂

      1. Hi Sunra, Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! I appreciate the kind words. I agree that ice, while not always the most welcomed thing, it does make for some great photos. I hope that you are having a good week! Thanks again for you support.

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