Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Ice-out by opener likely

Tribal harvest accelerates

Isle, Minn. While the snow and cold may have put an unexpected
twist into the spring season, ice-out on most northern fisheries
continues to progress.

The shorelines of Lake Mille Lacs opened during the weekend, as
strong winds pushed ice-out into high gear.

“The small lakes in this area are wide open and we’re seeing big
pockets of open water on Mille Lacs,” said Shannon Thompson of
Johnson’s Portside. “I’m confident we’ll be ice-free well before
the opener.”

Farther north, a few anglers still were “sneaking out” onto the
ice late last week on lakes such as Winnibigoshish, Red, and Rainy.
The general consensus early this week, however, is that the ice
fishing season is over.

Bruce Sandbeck of the Loon’s Nest on Rainy Lake thinks the lake
should be ready by opening weekend, despite ice-out a bit behind
schedule this year.

“The shorelines are really opening up, but it’s going fast,”
Sandbeck said. “If it gets as warm this week as they’re predicting,
we’ll be wide open in no time at all.”

Only the large, northern bodies of water have ice on them. But
even in these locations, most smaller lakes have begun to open, and
in many instances, they’re already wide open.

Crappie anglers have started to line the shores of lakes from
Brainerd to the Iowa border.

Even on Mille Lacs, where a large portion of the main lake
remains ice covered, crappies have started showing up in the bays,
channels, and boat harbors. As the weather warms and ice
deteriorates, crappies will move into the shallows statewide.

“All we need is a couple days of warm weather and sunshine to
get these fish going,” said Jo Clayton of Kobilka’s Sporting Goods
in Bemidji. “We’ve seen people fishing the shallows already, even
though there’s still ice floating around out there.”

In other areas, flooding has caused problems. Many popular river
areas have closed to fishing because of extremely high water.
Anglers and recreational boaters are reminded that the Mississippi
River is closed to boats from the Fridley area down to the Iowa
border.

Near Red Wing, typically an early season stop for thousands of
anglers, the river has been off limits for nearly two weeks. It
could be up to three weeks before boat traffic is again
allowed.

On the St. Croix River, where the walleye season was to begin
this Saturday, high water levels may force the opener to be pushed
back. As of Tuesday morning, it was closed to any boating activity.
A decision was to be made later this week concerning this year’s
opener.

The Minnesota/South Dakota border water walleye season is also
set to begin this Saturday. On Big Stone Lake, the opener will
start as planned, although a no-wake zone was implemented
throughout the entire fishery. While boats are still allowed to
navigate the entire lake, they must remain at idle speed and not
create any type of wake behind the boat.

This could change by the weekend. Water levels on Big Stone had
started dropping by Tuesday morning. If that continues, the no-wake
zone could be lifted by the opener.

For information on river levels and closures, check the DNR
website at www.dnr.state.mn.us

Tribal fish harvest

Tribal netting on Lake Mille Lacs had begun to accelerate early
this week. As of Monday, April 23, the Mille Lacs Band had
harvested 592 pounds of walleye and 2,076 pounds of northern pike
on the big lake, according to Rick Bruesewitz, DNR 1837 Treaty
biologist.

So far, only the Mille Lacs Band has fished Lake Mille Lacs this
spring. Eight Ojibwe bands in Minnesota and Wisconsin may
participate in the tribal harvest in the 1837 Ceded Territory.

Last weekend, members of the Fond du Lac Band speared walleyes
on Green Lake in Chisago County. On Friday and Saturday nights, the
spearers took a total of 134 fish weighing 378.4 pounds, Bruesewitz
said.

Editor Rob Drieslein contributed to this story.

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