Ice status: firm in the south, slushy up north

Willmar, Minn. – Although it’s been a slow process, ice
conditions are improving in Minnesota. Strangely enough, some of
the best ice conditions are taking hold in the southern half of the
state.

With less snow earlier this month from Willmar through Mankato
and down into Faribault and Fairmont, more than one foot of ice has
taken hold on many lakes. Slush isn’t an issue and anglers are
experiencing excellent travel conditions with ATVs, snowmobiles,
and even small trucks popping on many lakes.

Although driving a truck on the ice might be pushing the
envelope, there’s no question you’ll find more consistent and
firmer ice depths the farther south you travel.

“We’re going full speed in the Willmar area,” said Brad Foshaug
of Brad’s 71 Bait and Sports. “We’re not recommending any vehicle
traffic at this point, but 11 to 18 inches of ice is quite
common.”

Most important, the slush has disappeared. Foshaug said there
may be a “pocket or two” of slush on some lakes, but most of it has
either frozen or soaked away. He’s heard few complaints from
anglers this week concerning water atop the ice.

Reports are just as encouraging in other areas to the south and
west.

€ Mankato: No slush, limited snow, 10 to 12 inches of ice is
common.

€ Faribault: Good ice is reported with most lakes offering at
least 12 inches.

€ Fairmont: ATVs are a safe option, no slush, and at least 10 to
12 inches of ice on most lakes.

€ Starbuck: Permanent shelters are being pulled in force onto
Lake Minnewaska, where up to 16 inches of ice reported.

€ Ortonville: Some slush exists, but 8 to 14 inches of ice is
common.

Throughout central Minnesota ice depths vary greatly. The snow
has left a definite mark on lakes in the Sauk Centre and St. Cloud
areas.

While you might find as much as 14 inches of ice on select
lakes, others may be holding as little as 6 inches. That poses
problems for anglers since it’s all covered with snow.

“The problem is that you don’t know where that six inches
exists,” said Denny Fletcher of Fletcher’s Bait in Sauk Centre.
“The lakes that froze last or after the snow actually are in better
shape.”

Despite varying ice depths, Fletcher said most lakes are seeing
fishing activity. With some caution, there shouldn’t be any
problems, and he said most lakes are at or near being “four-wheeler
safe.”

The farther north one travels, the more slush you’ll find. On
average, 6 to 10 inches of ice is common. But the slush has created
the biggest headaches for most winter anglers.

€ Cass Lake: Four to 8 inches of ice covered by several inches
of slush.

€ Grand Rapids: ATVs and snowmobiles are options, but watch for
pockets of slush.

€ Grand Marais: Up to 20 inches of snow has created nearly
impossible ice fishing conditions.

€ Hackensack: Caution is advised due to the slush. Very few
anglers are getting out.

€ Blackduck: Eight to 12 inches of ice, but it’s not uniformed.
The slushy conditions have improved from last week.

€ Brainerd: Improving ice, but check it as you go. Two to 8
inches is reported on most lakes.

Three to 9 inches of ice is being found throughout the metro
area. The good news is that the slush doesn’t seem to be as big of
an issue this week as last.

Bob Sonenstahl of Wayzata Bait talked to many anglers over the
past week who encountered less slush. Even so, he says it’s very
important to continue checking the ice as you head out.

“We’ve got decent ice, up to 9 inches, but a lot less in some
areas,” he said. “I think it will be that way for a while because
there’s just enough snow on top of the ice to prevent it from
getting much thicker – at least not quickly.”

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