Detroit Lakes, Minn. – The good news is that ice has quickly
taken hold across Minnesota. What’s uncertain is how much this
week’s weather will affect the ability of anglers to fish that ice
by this weekend.
While weather forecasts include sub-zero temperatures, there’s
also likely measurable snow this week, plus strong winds, which
could hinder ice fishing plans in areas of the state.
Generally speaking, anglers were finding walkable ice in some
areas early this week. A quick blast of cold air capped lakes last
weekend and allowed people to start ice fishing.
In the Detroit Lakes area, portable fish houses started
appearing on many small lakes by Sunday evening. This area went
from open water to four inches of ice within three days, and
anglers took advantage of the sudden freeze.
“Everything froze at the same time and it capped in a hurry,”
said John Store of Quality Bait and Tackle in Detroit Lakes. “The
ice is in good shape and I suspect we’ll see some wheelers and
permanent houses on the ice this weekend.”
Reports from Upper Red Lake indicated four to six inches of ice
by Tuesday morning. Some resorts have started marking trails near
shore, and ATVs were being used.
Mike Washenberger of Dr. Tackle Sports in Kelliher pointed out
that his area was supposed to miss the heavy snow. He believes that
even if wind blows hard as predicted, there’s enough ice already in
place to prevent the lake from busting up.
“I think the ice is here to stay, regardless of how much it
blows,” he said. “There isn’t any open water and it’s going to stay
Roger Croaker of Nodak’s Lodge on Lake Winnibigoshish said three
to five inches of ice had taken hold early this week and isn’t
overly concerned with the predicted winds, either.
There were anglers fishing a few bays on Lake Mille Lacs by last
weekend, but there was some open water reported on the main lake
early this week.
The same is true on Leech Lake, where the deep water in Walker
Bay was still open and steaming Tuesday morning. The small bays and
small lakes had up to four inches of ice.
Ice reports from Brainerd, Blackduck, Bemidji, and Battle Lake
varied from two to four inches of ice on Tuesday, but in all areas,
there were people walking out and fishing on select lakes. By this
weekend, ice depths in these areas could allow some ATV use.
“The key now is going to be keeping the snow off because we
already have four to six inches of ice on a lot of lakes,” said
Carl Adams of Timberline Sports in Blackduck. “If the snow stays
south we’ll be running four-wheelers by the weekend.”
At Lake of the Woods, there was more uncertainty heading into
the weekend. Four Mile Bay was covered with about three inches of
ice on Tuesday morning, plus there was ice well out into the main
But Brian Ney of Adrian’s Resort was hesitant on making any
predictions about driving ATVs or snowmobiles across the bay and
over Pine Island onto the main lake by Saturday. He’s fielded a
steady stream of calls from eager anglers since last week, but
wouldn’t provide definite answers until late this week. While he
suspects people might be able to fish, he wasn’t sure if they’d be
able to access the main lake via Four Mile Bay.
“I’m still at the guessing point and I wish we had more ice in
the bay,” Ney said Tuesday morning. “I can’t guarantee we’ll be
pulling houses by this weekend, but I think it’s going to be close.
That’s the best answer I can give.”
From St. Cloud and points south and west, ice fishing has
started on a limited basis. There was still open water on the big
lakes, but walkable ice on many smaller fisheries.
Just how quickly they allow more ice fishing activity depends on
the weather this week. Even with a good layer of ice in place, a
major snowstorm could slow additional ice-making and limit walkable
“There are guys starting to sneak out so we could be in great
shape by next week given the cold that’s predicted,” said Andy
Nagel of Nagel’s Live Bait in Faribault. “If we can avoid the snow
and strong winds we should make a lot of ice this week.”