Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Anglers find fishable ice before the holidays in ’03

Staff Writer

Fairmont, Minn. For the first time in several years, anglers are
finding good ice conditions statewide prior to Christmas. From
north to south, and points in between, bait shops have been busy
filling minnow buckets, to the delight of business owners and
anglers alike.

Even in the southern fringes of the state, where ice is usually
slower to develop, you’ll find as much as 10 inches of ice on most
small lakes, while larger fisheries are offering enough ice for
walking on safely. The ice is in great shape and ice fishing
options abound in southern Minnesota.

The early start to the ice fishing season is much welcomed by
Scott Stith, owner of Master Sports Bait and Tackle in Fairmont.
Traditionally, he hopes to have people on the ice by the end of
December. But this year, there’s a legitimate possibility that many
people may be driving on lakes in this area by the end of the
month.

“It’s been a few years since we’ve been on the ice by
Christmas,” Stith said. “The ice is in great shape and we’re
already seeing as much as 10 inches of ice on many lakes.”

A blast of cold weather last week did wonders for the lakes that
remained open. The timing was perfect since the cold arrived after
measurable snow fell in the Twin Cities metro area and points
south.

For example, the main portions of Lake Minnetonka still were
wide open as the snow arrived. The cold front that followed locked
up the rest of the lake, and by the start of this week, anglers
were reporting as much as five inches of ice in these areas. The
bays on most larger, metro lakes and the majority of smaller
fisheries now have as much as seven inches of ice.

Permanent houses have started popping up on Lake Waconia, where
11 inches of ice is the norm. The farther north one travels, the
thicker the ice gets. Small vehicles and ATVs are common sights on
many lakes near Maple Lake and the Annandale area.

At Lake Mille Lacs, many resort owners also hope to have houses
out by the holiday season. That shouldn’t be an issue this year,
according to Steve Johnson of Johnson’s Portside on the east side
of the lake.

“We couldn’t ask for better ice conditions for this time of the
year,” Johnson said. “We aren’t even to Christmas yet, and the
houses have started to be pulled out.”

Johnson added that the thick, early ice will be a huge shot in
the arm for businesses throughout the area.

“We haven’t been on the ice this early in at least three years,”
he said. “It will be nice for everyone to finally have a full ice
fishing season.”

Near Hackensack and Leech Lake, many of the smaller lakes were
covered with several inches of slush prior to last week’s cold
front. For the most part, those lakes that were not approachable
due to the slop, have since froze solid, making them good to fish
as well.

Many resorts at Lake of the Woods have started using Bombardiers
to haul out their customers. Several more inches of ice has been
added to the nine inches that existed before the below-zero
temperatures took hold. Anglers are safely fishing from the Rainy
River, up the south shore, into the Northwest Angle.

While caution is still advised, especially on many deep, large
bodies of water, there should be no shortage of locations to spend
your Christmas break ice fishing.

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