Quality, fishable ice found across much of Minnesota

By Glen
Schmitt
Staff Writer

Baudette, Minn. – What a difference a week makes. Ice conditions
have improved dramatically across the state as single-digit
temperatures quickly ushered in another ice fishing season.

From south to north and all points in between, you now can find
ice thick enough for walking. While some large bodies of water
skimmed over as recently as Monday night, many winter anglers
started chipping their first holes of the season late last
week.

The further north one travels, the better ice conditions you’ll
find. Reports from areas north of Brainerd have been nothing but
positive this week concerning ice depths and ice fishing
activity.

At Lake of the Woods, ATVs and snowmobiles are a safe travel
option. Up to nine inches of ice has taken hold on the Rainy River,
Four Mile Bay, and along Pine Island. Just as important – the
walleye and sauger bite has been very consistent.

‘We’ve got our houses out and we’re catching fish,’ Darlene Ney
of Adrian’s Resort said on Tuesday morning. ‘The ice is smooth and
the water is clear, which means we’ve seen a lot of happy
anglers.’

Roger Croaker of Nodak’s Lodge on Lake Winnibigoshish says his
spearhouses have been set on the west shore of the lake where five
to six inches of ice is the norm. The main lake also is
ice-covered, although he had yet to check it earlier this week.

Most of the small bays on Leech Lake now have walkable ice and
Walker Bay, which typically is the last spot to lock up, capped
with ice Monday night. The small lakes in this area have up to six
inches of ice and have seen some angling activity for at least a
week.

Lake Vermilion and Rainy Lake offer areas with ice thick enough
to walk on. Although the big portions of these lakes may not yet be
safe, spearhouses and first-ice walleye anglers are finding plenty
of spots to fish.

On Upper Red Lake, eight inches of ice is common and several
resorts have started pulling rental fish houses. There is some
rough and jagged ice along the east shore, but anglers and resort
owners have been able to work around it.

‘We’re using ATVs and the ice really smooths out about a mile
onto the lake,’ said Mike Washenberger of Dr. Tackle Sports Shop in
Kelliher. ‘The walleye and pike bite has been good – we’re in fine
shape.’

You can expect four to six inches of ice on Isle Bay, Wahkon
Bay, and Cove Bay at Lake Mille Lacs. St. Alban’s Bay on the west
side was covered with about four inches of ice by Tuesday
morning.

The wind has caused issues with the main lake ice this week,
according to Terry Thurmer of Terry’s Boat Harbor in Garrison.
Thurmer said there’s enough ice to walk on in the bays, but fishing
the main lake might be another week or 10 days away.

‘It’s been cold enough, but we need the wind to calm down,’ he
said. ‘It wouldn’t take but a few nights of cold, calm weather to
keep the ice intact.’

Around the Detroit Lakes, Battle Lake, Hackensack, and Brainerd
areas, four to seven inches of ice has taken hold on most small,
shallow lakes and bays. However, larger fisheries present less ice
and limited fishing opportunities.

‘Overall, the ice is in great shape with the exception of our
big lakes,’ said Marcia Swanson of Swanson’s Bait and Tackle in
Hackensack. ‘We had a lot of people ice fishing last weekend and I
expect it to only get busier.’

Throughout central and western Minnesota, most bait shops were
reporting four to seven inches of ice as of Tuesday morning. The
one characteristic that stands out it is that the ice currently in
place is clear and solid with little or no snow cover.

Ice fishing has begun throughout St. Cloud, Sauk Centre,
Annandale, Mankato, and Willmar and as far west as Ortonville. Big
Stone Lake along the South Dakota border already has as much as six
inches of ice. The only report of open water in the Willmar area
earlier this week was Green Lake, which is large and deep and
traditionally the last body of water to cap.

You can travel as far south as Fairmont and find ice suitable
for walking. Just 10 days ago, the entire area offered nothing but
open water. While some open water remains, Curt Larson of Master
Sport and Bait says everything is setting up nicely in the Fairmont
area.

‘Ice depths vary, but most have been froze for about a week,’ he
said. ‘Most guys are just starting to get out, but the ice that’s
here is in very good shape.’

Categories: Hunting News

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