Another ‘typical’ year for anxious ice anglers

St. Paul – How much longer will ice anglers be left on shore
holding the bucket? The National Weather Service, in its most
recent outlook released Nov. 15, predicted warmer than average
temperatures across Minnesota from December through February.

That might translate into a later start and shorter season, once
again, for recreation on the ice.

For the past 10 years, Dec. 1 has been the typical date that
anglers and spearers have been able to walk out onto the ice of
small lakes and backwaters, according to Bill Powell, owner of
Fred’s Bait and Tackle in Deer River.

Powell said he expected similar ice conditions this season,
noting that as of Nov. 20, smaller lakes in the area had a skim of
ice.

But it was different as recently as the 1980s, said Powell, a
lifelong northern Minnesota resident.

“In ‘82 or ‘83, my dad and I drove on 9 inches of ice on the day
after Thanksgiving,” he said, noting that getting out on the ice
near the end of November was typical.

“It used to freeze up faster,” Powell said. “It definitely seems
like it’s getting later.”

No hard evidence

While records of ice-out dates abound, historical records of
ice-up are hard to establish, according to Pete Boulay, DNR
assistant state climatologist in St. Paul.

Lakes may receive several skims of ice that break up before the
lake freezes over for the winter, so establishing a date when lakes
are safe for ice fishing or other recreation is tricky, Boulay
said.

However, “You don’t need to know much about ice to know that
during the past 10 winters, nine of them have been categorized as
balmy,” Boulay said.

The exception, Boulay said, was the winter of 2000 to 2001.

“That is the winter out of the past 10 that people would say was
a good-old-fashioned winter,” Boulay said.

While historical records of ice in are sketchy, Boulay pointed
to several lakes that have long strings of “ice in” data.

Two lakes with the longest strings of data are Big Detroit Lake
in Becker County and Lake Waconia in Carver County.

In 1939 Big Detroit Lake didn’t ice over until Dec. 13,
according to records that have been kept there since 1908. At
Waconia, the latest recorded “ice-in” date was Dec. 12, 1944 and
again on the same date in 1953, according to information recorded
at Waconia since 1940.

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