Governor’s Fishing Opener: Countdown continues amid another heavy dose of winter

What will it take for the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener to go off without a hitch?

Losing about an inch of ice a day.

As of Monday, April 16, there reportedly was 25 inches of ice still on Green Lake in the Willmar lakes area, site of the 71st opener scheduled for May 12 – a mere 26 days away. According to records, the latest the ice has ever gone out on Green Lake is May 8.

But the planning committee remains optimistic – and upbeat, posing Sunday with ice augers, shovels, blow torches and chainsaws for a photo that’s making the rounds on social media.

All of this in the aftermath of a weekend snowstorm that dramatically intensified winter’s grip on much of the state. And although it didn’t hit Willmar as hard as other parts of the state, the area reportedly still saw around 8 or 9 inches of snow to insulate the ice on area lakes.

More snow also is in the forecast for the middle of this week. Temperatures in the 40s are the norm for the rest of this week before the area sees a a considerable warmup early next week, with a high of 60 forecasted for Monday, April 23, and temps in the high 50s in the days following.

Prior to the storm, no lakes in Minnesota had been reported as ice-free, though ice has thawed along the shores of some southern lakes and areas with moving water, according to reports. At the time, the Minnesota DNR, which maintains an online ice-out map, said the state may be on pace to set records for latest ice-outs.

“In southern Minnesota and central Minnesota, we’re well behind progress of ice out. Probably at least 10 days behind historical averages,” Pete Boulay, the DNR’s assistant state climatologist, said in a story last week. “The lakes in far southern Minnesota usually go out toward the end of March and obviously they haven’t gone out yet.”

Even lakes that typically are ice-free at this point in the year, such as Lake Pepin, are still mostly frozen, he said. And it’s tough to tell when ice will start going out in northern Minnesota, he said. By contrast, at this time last year, Minnesota’s lakes were two weeks ahead of their historical averages.

With the fishing opener about a month away, anglers might recall that there’s precedent for some lakes to hang onto their ice.

“There was ice on some Minnesota lakes on openers in 1950, 1966, 1979, 1996, 2008, 2013 and 2014,” said Kenny Blumenfeld, senior climatologist with the State Climatology Office.

Every day that it snows postpones the thaw even further because the snow reflects light back up, Boulay said, so as not to melt the ice.

Minnesota’s overall trend for ice coverage is actually going down due to climate change, he said.

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